In today’s penultimate excerpts from the Telegraph in conversation with Nigel Farage at Cadogan Hall, the Brexit Party leader responds to questions from the floor. He is asked first about the danger of his party taking votes from the Conservatives at a General Election and letting Labour in, ‘as happened in Peterborough’:
What happened in Peterborough, sir? What happened in Peterborough, a two-horse race . . . forget the cheating, we’ll deal with that later, all right . . . what happened was a straight contest between the Brexit Party and Labour, but because too many people voted Conservative, they split our vote. Vote Conservative – get Corbyn . . . There are now maybe 100 to 150 seats in this country that are held by Labour MPs that were Leave-voting seats in the referendum, where the only party that can possibly beat Labour is the Brexit Party. And what could stop this happening is the Conservatives splitting our vote. So, sir, in much of the country, it’s quite the reverse of what you’ve suggested.
Christopher Hope, the Telegraph compere, asks: ‘Why not have a pact?’
If there was a Conservative leader who was committed not just to being prime minister, but to delivering a proper Brexit, then maybe you’d have that conversation.
Hope: So, for example, you would stand against seats in the South that are safe Brexiteer seats and then they would stand in the Labour seats in the North.
I was told 108 times by Mrs May that we were leaving the European Union on 29 March. I’m now being told by Boris Johnson we’re leaving the European Union on 31 October. I’ll believe it when I see it. But, as I said earlier, if he hasn’t the guts to be prepared to be voted down by Parliament, to call an election on a clean-break Brexit, then I would suggest to my questioner from Reigate, logically, there would be a deal that could be done, and in those circumstances Boris would come back with a massive, massive majority, simple as that.
Farage is asked how can he equate Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s positions on the EU, when fundamentally Theresa May was a Remainer and Boris Johnson was a Leaver from the start, one of the heads of the Leave campaign?
Because he said – and, by the way, it wasn’t Mrs May’s deal, the press kept calling it ‘Mrs May’s deal’, it wasn’t; it was Monsieur Barnier’s treaty, written with Frau Merkel looking over his shoulder, all right? That’s what that treaty was. Boris said if we signed up to that, it was like a suicide vest on British democracy, we’d be a vassal state, indeed, even a slave state. And yet, on the third time of asking, he voted for it. And you expect me to believe him, when he says he’s going to leave on the 31 October? I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think the guy has got the courage to see this through. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I would suggest to the questioner, his track record is not very good.
Next questioner says he is 28 years old and has never witnessed a proper conviction politician, that with people bogged down in issues such as ‘no deal’ to try to trip up the Leave campaign, he asks whether Farage is surprised that half the country aren’t that interested in democracy.
I think it depends how you ask the question. You know, with the public it depends a lot on how you ask the question. I think actually there’s more unity in this country than people realise. Because if you ask the question, ‘Do you want the Brexit issue settled, so we can just get on with the rest of our lives?’ you actually then find quite a number of Remainers say yes to that. I’ve also noticed a lot of the polling would suggest it’s still 50/50 . . .
For a civilised democracy to function, you have to have the loser’s consent. And the problem here is, in the aftermath of the referendum, many senior figures in British public life, from John Major to Tony Blair to Nick Clegg and many, many others – and I said that quickly, so you wouldn’t boo them all one by one – Anna Soubry (audience boos) . . . so many figures in public life, and I would suggest, sir, so many section of the media, tried to invalidate that result by saying it was achieved by cheating, by saying it was achieved by Russian funding; that is why there’s so many people that think we shouldn’t leave the European Union: the Leavers did not consent to our victory. But don’t worry, because we’re going to get there. Even if there was a second referendum, we’d win it by a much bigger margin. I still think this Parliament would not give us a clean-break Brexit. We need different men and women in that Parliament in Westminster.
Christopher Hope interjects: If you’d lost 52-48, would you have gone fishing?
If we’d lost 52-48, there would have been some unreconciled to it, but the answer is there wouldn’t even be a debate about it. There wouldn’t even be a debate about it, and if I was to spend all my time complaining about it, I’d be whistling in the wind. I’d have got nowhere, the issue would have been dead for ten or twenty years or more. And that’s the reality. And look, it’s happening everywhere. It’s happening in America. The same problem in America, large sections of the American media, and the Democrats just don’t accept the validity of this President. But as I say, I think the Leave voters are more united, stronger than they ever were before. There are genuine democrats on the Remain side who would support us next time round. And in America, Trump will win in November 2020.
The next questioner talks about the scenario in which the Brexit Party could help Boris Johnson secure a massive majority, and asks Nigel Farage whether he would give up politics at this point, or join Boris Johnson in the Cabinet, and if so what role would he like.
Loads of questions. Look, if Boris is brave enough to do this, he’ll need to work with people like me and (Brexit party chairman) Richard Tice. Whatever it took, however long it took to get Brexit over the line, for us to turn a corner, to establish a new status quo. Do you know something, I am so bullish about Brexit, about our economy, about the prospects for small business, the prospects for international trade, I am really excited about it. If I can help with that process I’ll do so, formally, informally, I’d take any job I could to make this happen and for us to look back in a hundred, two hundred years’ time and say, ‘The only extraordinary thing about Brexit was it didn’t happen sooner.’