Nigel Farage refuses to rule out Ukip leadership comeback
Nigel Farage today announced he is stepping down as leader of Ukip - but refused to rule out making another comeback.
In a surprise move, he said he had "done his bit" and now is the time to let someone else take the reins of the party as Britain prepares to negotiate its exit from the European Union.
But despite initially ruling out another stint as leader, the MEP opened the door to a possible return in the future, saying: “Let’s see where we are in two and a half years’ time”.
The leading Brexiteer also expressed his willingness to be part of the negotiating team to take Britain out of the EU, saying he has the “skills to offer” and the experience to participate in the two-year long talks.
Announcing his resignation in Westminster this morning, Mr Farage said: "I came into politics from business because I believed that this nation should be self-governing. I have never been and I have never wanted to be a career politician.
"My aim in being in politics was to get Britain out of the European Union that is what we voted for in that referendum two weeks ago.
"And that is why I now feel that I have done my bit, that I couldn't possibly achieve more than we managed to get in that referendum. And so I feel it's right that I should now stand aside as leader of Ukip.
"I will support the new leader. I will watch the re-negotiation process in Brussels like a hawk and perhaps comment in the European Parliament from time to time."
He added: "During the referendum campaign I said I want my country back, and I'm saying today I want my life back. And it begins right now."
The party will appoint a new leader by the time of its party conference in September of this year.
Mr Farage stood down following the 2015 election after failing in his bid to become MP for Thanet South, recommending that then party deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans take over.
However, he unresigned two days later, triggering a fracturing of relations with Ms Evans - who has since been suspended by the party - and Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell.
Mr Farage today refused to recommend a successor but insisted he would support the next leader.
He also failed to rule out another run at the helm of Ukip if party members clamour for his leadership, should the UK not secure a palatable deal with the European Union.
“I think that Ukip is going to, during this period, maintain it’s strength in the country. I’m not, let’s just be clear, I’m not walking out of here in a fit of pique, I’m saying I’m fully behind the party, what it stands for, whoever the new leader is,” he said.
“I, let’s see, let’s see where we are in two and a half years’ time. But I don’t need to be leader of Ukip, I will be part of that 2020 campaign if we don’t get what we want. But I repeat the point, I’m not a career politician, I came into this from business because I wanted my country back.
“We’ve got our country back, I know we’re going to leave the EU, that’s why I’ve made this decision. If the terms aren’t right I’ll do anything I can to help anybody that wants to make them right.”
Mr Carswell signalled his pleasure at Mr Farage’s resignation by tweeting a picture of a smiling emoji.
On being informed of the tweet, Mr Farage responded: “I’m pleased to see him smile, because that’s not something I’ve seen very often from him."
Mr Carswell later told the Spectator: “I’m inconsolable. Nigel deserves a lot of credit for getting the referendum and I wish him well.”
Mr Farage asserted that the next Prime Minister should be a candidate who backed the campaign to leave the EU.
Stopping short of recommending either Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox or Michael Gove, Mr Farage did suggest he would be keen to take part in the exit talks with Brussels.
“No, I’m not putting myself forward. I did spend 20 years in business, I have spent quite a lot of time in Brussels, I might have something to give if they want to, if they don’t that’s fine,” he said.
Mr Farage also rejected claims he was looking to set up a new party with Ukip donor Arron Banks, and said there was an early election he would not like to see Ukip MPs stand against Brexit-backing incumbents.
Mr Farage was Ukip chairman from 1998 until 2000, and became its leader in 2010.