Nigel Farage has made a remarkable transition.
After decades of wallowing in the fringes of British politics, the country’s premier anti-Europe politician cemented his place in history after helping to lead the country out of the European Union (EU).
Farage first became interested in politics whilst working in London as a stockbroker. He defected from the Conservative Party after prime minister John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which formed the EU we know today. Farage launched the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in 1993 with one goal in mind: Get Britain out of the EU.
After he was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), in 1999, Farage spent the vast majority of his political career undermining the EU at its heart in Brussels (and Strasbourg) and very publicly insulting everyone as he and his fellow UKIP MEPs called for Britain to leave. Meanwhile, UKIP steadily grew—in 2014, it became the first party in 100 years that was not the Tories or Labour to win a nationwide election.
Though many doubted him and it took over 20 years, Farage was able to achieve his goal; something he didn’t fail to rub in today (June 28) when he went back to the European Parliament for the first time since Brexit. He stood up and told his fellow MPs:
Isn’t it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign go get Britain out of the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?
The reason you’re so upset, the reason you’re so angry, has been perfectly clear, from all the angry exchanges this morning. You as a political project are in denial.
Farage went on to call for a “grown up and sensible attitude to how we negotiate a different relationship,” and he found the time to belittle the MEPs present: “Most of you have never done a proper job in your lives.”
Unsurprisingly, Farage’s speech was met with boos and jeers from his political opponents. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker went as far to ask the UKIP contingent: “Why are you here?”
Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right party National Front, who is considered a frontrunner for the presidency next year, also weighed in on the heated political discussion. She told her fellow MEPs to stop sulking and celebrate as “the British have chosen a route that was thought to be closed for all time.” She described Brexit as a “victory for democracy and a slap in the face to the European system.”