Nigel Farage today (6 July) said he would miss being the “pantomime villain” of the European Parliament, at a Strasbourg press conference held after he stepped down as leader of the UK Independence Party.
Farage, the politician who did more than any other to force Prime Minister David Cameron to hold the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, resigned two days ago but will continue as an MEP.
At a press conference in the European Parliament, he was asked what he would miss about the EU, once Britain had left.
He said, “I shall miss it enormously. I’ve had an absolute whale of a time […]. I shall miss the theatre and the drama that there’s been in the European Parliament.
“Also on a personal level, I will miss being the pantomime villain. I will miss them all booing and shouting at me.”
After the 23 June referendum returned the vote for Brexit, Farage gleefully told heckling MEPs in Brussels, “You’re not laughing at me now”.
Farage used the press conference to put pressure on the ruling Conservative party, which is in the process of selecting a new leader after David Cameron.
Theresa May, who supported Remain, is currently leading the pack of candidates, followed by Brexiteers Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove.
“I hope the Conservative party has the wisdom to pick candidate that will trigger Article 50 as soon as possible,” he told reporters.
Leadsom has said she would trigger Article 50, the legal process to take a country out the EU, “sooner rather than later”. Gove and May have hinted they will only do so when the time is right for Britain.
EU leaders called on the British government to invoke Article 50 as soon as possible to minimise the risk of uncertainty jeapordising the fragile Eurozone economy.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has taken a strong line with the British, vowing there will be no Brexit negotiations without Article 50 notification.
Farage predicted that freedom of movement and access to the single market would be the major “battlelines” in any EU-UK talks.
The argument is going to be over issues like freedom of movement and access to the single market. Are they going to be absolute red lines for the next prime minister or will there be some kind of sell out?,” Farage said.
“When it comes to lies I don’t think Vote Leave or Leave.eu got anywhere close to what we were told by the ‘Remainiacs’ in the campaign. Namely that you cannot have access to the single market without freedom of movement. Every country in the worlds has access to single market.”
Farage predicted UKIP would benefit in support at the next British elections if the new prime minister got a “less than favourable” deal.
“I think we’ve got an incredibly strong hand. The deal the UK currently has with the EU is a rotten deal,” he said.
“I hope to see a strong prime minister who recognises that in the modern world the customer is king. And we are the customer. We are the buyer. The trade deficit between the UK and EU is approximately 70 billion pounds sterling every year.”
Farage added that even if there was no deal at the end of the Article 50 talks and tariffs were to be reintroduced, that would still be a better situation than the UK has now.
He also poured cold water on any hopes for a second referendum for the UK and for Scottish independence.
“There is a fair bit of division in the air at the moment but the result is the result. We are not going to have a re-run,” he said.
After pointing out the collapse in oil prices, he added, “It’s a great political story for [Scottish First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon. But would she really want a referendum at this stage? They would lose it by a bigger margin than in 2014.”