If it is to be believed that this is for definite this time, then Nigel Farage has stepped down as the leader of UKIP who now face, much like all political parties in the UK seemingly, a leadership contest.
A divisive, loud, thorn in the side of the establishment is prepared to pass the baton onto the next generation of Euroscepticism. Whether you like or hate Nigel Farage, he has had a remarkable effect on British politics, he has shaken up the traditional political landscape and achieved a monumental feat.
We must remember that ‘Brexit’ is no small scalp, it is the most surprising event and was deemed extremely unlikely. Nobody, not even senior leave campaigners, thought the country would vote to leave the European Union. It went against the traditional trends of the status quo, the wishes of numerous financial establishments and world leaders.
Nigel Farage only began in politics for one reason, to get the UK to leave the European Union, and he has achieved that without stepping foot in 10 Downing Street, the House of Commons or the Lords. Obviously his position in the European Parliament allowed him to heckle and obstruct the Brussels system, but he has never held significant public office in the UK.
Of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair remarked that “very few Prime Ministers get to change the landscape of their country.” Nigel Farage has changed the global and domestic political landscape beyond recognition and perhaps irreversibly. For good or ill, one has to admire him for this accomplishment alone.
Had Farage’s noisy politics not risen to the public view in 2013, there would unlikely never have been a referendum on Europe to begin with, since the issues of Europe and Immigration had long been placed on the backbencher by New Labour and the Coalition.
Farage’s departure from UKIP comes at a time when the party will be facing a difficult question as to where they go to next. They will continue to, Farage assured, put pressure on the government to ensure there is no ‘backsliding’ on the issues of freedom of movement. However, assuming that the next Tory Prime Minister achieves a favourable deal from Europe, or a staunchly Pro-Brexit PM is elected such as Andrea Leadsom, they’ll be rather stealing UKIP’s thunder.
With an exit from Europe now a matter of years away, and likely a new, more sensible immigration policy to follow, UKIP’s two main issues will likely fade from public attention. In this sense one might think the future seems pretty grim for UKIP, but there is a unique political opportunity for them.
‘Leave’ was the winning side in many Labour-held Northern Constituencies, many of which UKIP came 2nd in during the 2015 General Election, there could be a reasonable challenge in 2020. If Labour continue to be in disarray over the direction of their party, while the Conservatives could elect a Prime Minister who is softer on the EU, UKIP could find themselves a viable alternative for many disillusioned voters.
If UKIP elect a candidate who is as equally charismatic as Mr Farage, yet less controversial, they could appeal to many former Conservative voters, as well as dispirited Labour supporters.
Brexit has unsown the traditional seeds of British Politics. In the past two weeks, the country has voted to leave a major international organisation and faces huge uncertainty as to where we go next, the Prime Minister has resigned, Labour are less united than a pair of squabbling siblings, it is all rather chaotic.
Every party is trying to find their feet once again, appear strong to the public and gain a clear sense of direction in such confusing times. This applies, without exception to UKIP. They must decide whether they will let themselves cooperate more extensively with the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party or to try and push on and mount a sustained push to become a viable and long standing member of the political establishment in Britain. The choice is theirs.