By Lowri Pitcher
A few weeks before the European elections, during the Brexit Party’s launch in Wales, Gair Rhydd met Nigel Farage in a nearby Wetherspoons to discuss the Brexit Party’s establishment, as well his hopes and plans for his role as an MEP.
Is the Brexit party a one-party issue or could you see yourself fighting a general election as well?
Oh we will go ahead and fight a general election, no doubt about that. The issue we’re fighting on the 23rd May is the most important question you can ever ask yourself in a free society: are we a democracy?
We voted for something in a referendum, then in a general election we were told by the Labour and Conservative parties they would uphold the result, we then had nearly 500 MPs vote for Article 50 which said we’re leaving on the 29th March and we haven’t. So we’re asking a question: are we a democratic nation or not? How do you think the rest of the world sees us? That is the fundamental question that we’re fighting on right now. Thereafter we will talk about education and many other things.
Given that the polls say the Brexit Party will come top in the EU parliament elections, when you get elected does that mean you’ll oppose all propositions by the EU or will you accept certain propositions of EU law?
No, no, no I do not accept any law that is made by the European institutions. I believe we should be an independent country. I want to be friendly with Europe, I want to trade with Europe, I want to have student exchange with Europe, I want to drink their wine. I want all of those things but I don’t want the laws and that’s what Brexit was about.
What do you say to students that believe Brexit represents a loss of opportunity?
I find this argument bewildering, I worry what you’re being taught sometimes. Look, let’s be frank about this, by the way, I love Europe, I’ve worked for French companies, I love Europe as a place. However, the European Union is only 7% of the world’s population, it’s now only 15% of the world’s economy and it’s declining every year.
The real opportunity for young people is not inside the European Union, there’s a great big world out there and Brexit makes us freer to engage in that world. There is nothing isolationist, nothing small-minded about saying we should be a democratic, self-governing nation looking outwards.
Asking as a student newspaper, what are you drinking?
Well, in fact, I wasn’t going to have a drink but I walked in here and a bloke called Clive said “I’ve got to buy you a beer because I want to tell my mates,” so it’s a pint of Doombar and it’s very good. It’s not from Wales I’m afraid!
The role of the Brexit Party in the European Parliament
The new eurosceptic Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage received 32% of UK votes despite only being established a little over 6 weeks ago, leaving the Labour party and Conservative Party in 3rd and 5th place, respectively. However, there is a lot of dispute as to whether their 29 seats will make any difference within the 751-seat parliament.
The traditional centre-right and centre-left dominance in the European Parliament suffered notable loses with the S&D losing 45 seats and the EPP losing 41, a combined loss of 86 seats compared to 2014. They now represent 331 seats, short of the 376 seats needed to form a majority, though it is believed that these parties will form a coalition with other pro-EU liberal groups such as the Greens or ALDE.
The various eurosceptic groups represent approximately 200 seats which does not represent a majority, this means it is questionable how much impact this will have. Although the right-wing/eurosceptic parties did less well than some had imagined, it is reflective of the extreme fragmentation of opinions currently visible in societies across Europe.