The man most responsible for Brexit – Nigel Farage – has been in Prague to make his contribution to the campaign for upcoming Czech elections. And the former head of the UKIP party had a series of messages for politicians in general, Czechs in particular, and his own take on the continuing Brexit negotiations.
Nigel Farage, who engineered the referendum on leaving the European Union in Britain and steered the leave camp to an unexpected win, was in Prague this week to lend his support to like-minded former Czech Member of the European Parliament, Petr Mach, and his Svobodných Občanů party.
Farage, who has stepped back from frontline British politics but says he is ready to jump in again if Brexit appears to be going off the rails, summed up to his Prague audience why the ‘Leave’ campaign triumphed in the referendum:
ʺIt’s about simplicity of message. It’s about vision. It is completely about grasping the opportunity that new media offers. I mean we would never, UKIP would never have got off the ground, we would never have had a referendum if it was not for the way that we were able to use the Internet, YouTube etc. It made a massive difference. And the same with Trump. Trump would not have got the nomination let alone become president if he had not built this army of online support.ʺ
And his wider message was the moves to integrate Europe will just spark more conflicts between member countries and spark violence when citizens realise that their votes in national elections can be ignored at the European level and promises overturned:
ʺI think that the European project is at a very interesting juncture, and my view very strongly is that not just the United Kingdom should leave the European Union but that Europe should leave the European Union. I don’t think the project is working. I think there is a very strong, powerful, and I think it will be a growing argument that says that a genuine Europe of sovereign independent national states can cooperate together incredibly closely.ʺ
But Farage had a more pressing argument for his Czech audience. He advised them that they should push for a rapid and fair trade deal between Britain and the EU, accusing European leaders of dragging their feet and undermining attempts to seal such a deal:
ʺNone of us are protectionists, none of us are small-minded, actually quite the reverse. We see Brexit as an opportunity to open ourselves up to other parts of the world. It would seem obvious to us, with a country like yours for example, where we are your fourth or fifth biggest market in the world. You sell us more than we sell you. It’s in the interest of Czech companies and Czech workers that a good deal is done. And yet, it’s Mr. [Jean-Claude]Juncker and Mr [Michel] Barnier, and that [Guy] Verhofstat fellow, that don’t want a simple trade deal or are doing their best to stop it. So again, these are fundamental questions ‘What is the Europe Union for?’ ‘What is Brussels doing? Is it still representing countries and citizens?. And I think increasingly the answer is no.ʺ