Nigel Farage, the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and the leader of the movement in Britain to leave the European Union, delivered a speech at the Searle Center on Monday about the Brexit vote and President Donald Trump’s election.
The speech was met with raucous reactions from the crowd, who Farage encouraged to boo for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and cheer for Trump.
Farage delivered an account of his role in the Brexit vote, discussing chronologically from the establishment of UKIP, which broke off the Conservative Party in the 1990s, to his now-viral speech in the European Parliament following the Brexit vote.
“Brexit and Trump were not blips,” Farage said. “They were not short-term revolts of angry people. They were fundamental changes of direction…They will see 2016 as the year people took back control of their lives, their countries, and their destinies.”
Throughout his speech, he focused on the theme of the worldwide bureaucratic system’s dilution of the people’s role in their democracy. He touched on the mistakes made about former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s opinion of the European Union, tying his speech into his visit for Hillsdale’s Churchill Conference.
“What is absolutely clear is that W.C., whether the European project went ahead or not, did not believe that the British nation should be a part of it because he saw we had wider links, bonds, and associations with the world, who were our cousins, our families, and he was right about that,” Farage said.
Do you think Churchill would have supported the EU of today?
It’s interesting isn’t it — both sides claim Churchill. There was a building in Strasbourg within the European Parliament called the Winston Churchill building. Now my own view is he’d be horrified. And I’ll tell you why — don’t underestimate the disaster in many ways that occurred in Europe from 1870 to ’72: the Franco-Prussian War; 1914, the Germans invade; 1940, the Germans invade the low countries again. Three times in the space of a normal adult lifetime, Germany invades with huge — in the last two cases, global — consequences, so Churchill was looking for solutions and looking for answers, and he did say the U.S. of Europe could be a way of stopping all this from happening, but two key points: Firstly, Britain should not be a member of it, because we had our links and associations through what he called the English-speaking world, which today I would define as the commonwealth plus the United States of America, and secondly, Churchill was not an ideologue. If he’d seen that the idea of bringing peaceful countries together had turned into the anti-democratic monster that it now is, and it doesn’t have the support and consent of the peoples of Europe, there is no way Winston Churchill today would have supported the EU in its current form. Would he support close European relationships? Yes. Would he support being friendly, cooperating, training? Yes, of course. But not this.
How do you think Churchill would have felt about Trump?
It’s very difficult to compare someone who was born in the middle of the Victorian era with the 21st century. The one thing Churchill completely understood was the power of the simple message and the use of media. People forget this about Churchill — he was a terrific showman and on the radio at the time. He was also a prolific writer of newspaper articles and everything, but he recognized that the radio was the means to getting into people’s houses, to get close to people, and nobody tried to use and exploit the radio more or in a better way than Winston Churchill. Trump has recognized that there’s a new thing called social media, and he’s going with that. And I’m quite sure, if Churchill was alive today, he would have the biggest global Twitter following of anybody, so I think in terms of understanding how to deliver messages, in terms of recognizing new media of the day is, and I think in terms of the passion behind the politics they represent. Maybe they’re not quite as far apart as commentators would suggest.
Trump and Brexit were described as ‘populist’ revolutions. Is that pejorative?
Well I think it is a pejorative and so I reject it. I reject it. Actually, in the U.K. media, over the last few years, I’ve seen Trump and I as the two most vilified people. We’ve had more abuse thrown at us than anybody else who exists in the world. I mean, you’re a dictator in a third-world country, that’s fine. But if you’re going to say don’t advocate Brexit, don’t advocate Trump. What is so extraordinary about the accusations of extremism, the accusations of isolationism, the accusations of spreading division and fear, what is so extraordinary about all of it is actually all we’re really advocating is a return to normal. In normal circumstances, countries mark their own borders and do what’s in the interest of their own people. That is what normal countries do. And it shows you how abnormal we’ve become that those that advocate such a thing get the abuse they do.