How Boris Johnson Outplayed Nigel Farage on Brexit. And Then Everything Else.
Over the past year, as the U.K. left the EU and finalized a trade deal with the bloc, one man has kept a surprisingly low profile: Mr. Brexit himself, Nigel Farage.
Farage is the former leader of the UK Independence Party, a party that—despite only ever winning a single seat in a British Parliament election—is widely credited with being instrumental in taking the U.K. out of the EU.
Farage stepped down as leader of UKIP after the Brexit referendum in 2016. He later left the party, and in 2019, as Prime Minister Theresa May began to waver on the Brexit issue, he went on to found the Brexit Party, hoping to repeat his success with UKIP. In 2013, the upstart UKIP had been polling at 10 percent nationally, prompting a promise from David Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership on the hopes it would bring its voters back into the fold. This time around, Farage’s plan was for the Brexit Party to force the Tory government to actually go through with leaving the European Union and not succumb to demands to hold a second referendum, or agree to a watered-down Brexit in name only.
In the 2019 elections to determine who would fill the U.K.’s 73 seats in the European Parliament, the last the U.K. would participate in before leaving the EU, the four-month old Brexit Party became the biggest party in the U.K. The Conservative Party was pushed down to fifth place with a single-digit showing. Theresa May, whose standing in the party had become progressively weaker since her disastrous decision to call a snap election in 2017, resigned the next day.