Boris Johnson is preparing to bring the curtain down on the UK’s membership of the European Union at 11pm this evening as he left Downing Street this morning and said: ‘Today is the day.’
After more than three and a half years of Brexit turmoil, Britain will finally split from Brussels tonight with the Prime Minister due to address the nation shortly before the moment of departure.
But before he does that he is convening his Cabinet in Sunderland this afternoon for a symbolic meeting in the city which was the first to declare a majority Leave vote at the EU referendum in 2016.
Mr Johnson is expected to use his address this evening to deliver a plea for the country to move on from Brexit and to set out his desire to ‘level up’ the whole of the UK.
In remarks to be broadcast shortly before 11pm, the PM will insist that Brexit marks ‘not an end but a beginning’.
As Cabinet ministers journeyed to the north of England, Britain’s MEPs said goodbye to the European Parliament for the final time.
Meanwhile, EU leaders delivered a parting shot at the UK as they said ‘strength does not lie in splendid isolation’ and David Cameron insisted the Britain ‘can make a success’ of Brexit.
Boris Johnson proclaimed ‘today is the day’ as he left Downing Street this morning and headed to Sunderland for a meeting of his Cabinet ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU at 11pm this evening
Mr Johnson will then deliver a plea for the country to move on from Brexit tonight as the UK finally leaves the EU at 11pm
London unfurls the flags for Brexit as the Mall in London towards Buckingham Palace is transformed into a sea of patriotic Red White & Blue
Big Ben’s clockface is pictured at 11pm on Thursday – 24 hours before the UK officially withdraws from the European Union
Buildings on the Grand Place pulsate with lights in the red, white and blue of the British flag during a British-themed evening titled ‘Brussels Calling’ sponsored by the city the day after the European Parliament ratified the Brexit agreement on January 30, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium
Tonight he will stress his belief that the referendum was a vote not just to leave the EU, but also for lasting change in neglected areas of the country. Mr Johnson will describe Brexit as ‘the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act’.
He will go on: ‘It is a moment of real national renewal and change. This is the dawn of a new era in which we no longer accept that your life chances – your family’s life chances – should depend on which part of the country you grow up in.’
At 11pm – midnight on the Continent – Britain will legally leave the EU and enter a ‘transition period’ which runs until December 31. During this time the UK will remain subject to EU laws and free movement of people will continue.
On Monday Mr Johnson will deliver a major speech setting out his approach to both Brexit and national renewal. Sources said he would be ‘very frank’ about his aims for the negotiations with Brussels and his determination to allow Britain to ‘diverge’ from the EU, even if this means the introduction of some trade barriers.
He will also spell out his determination to ensure that the Brexit transition period will not be extended beyond the end of this year, despite warnings from Brussels that there is not enough time to complete a comprehensive free trade agreement. Mr Johnson will warn that failure to strike a trade deal by the end of the year would lead to the introduction of tariffs on goods entering from the EU, such as German cars, French cheese and Italian wines.
One Government source said: ‘Theresa May made two crucial mistakes – she wasn’t clear about what she wanted, and she wasn’t clear that she was prepared to leave with or without a deal.
‘We are not going to make those mistakes. We want a good free trade deal, without alignment, but we are prepared to leave without one if we have to.’ Mr Johnson will also reject calls for the EU to be given automatic rights to UK fishing grounds – and for the European Court of Justice to be the arbiter of disputes arising from a new trade deal.
Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, was one of a handful of ministers spotted at Kings Cross station in London this morning as the Cabinet headed to Sunderland
Esther McVey, the Minister of State for Housing, was also spotted at the station. The Cabinet is expected to meet this afternoon
Mr Johnson has ordered only low key events to mark Britain’s departure tonight. Union flags will fly in the Mall and Parliament Square and a light show will be displayed on the front of No10. A Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister would ‘celebrate Brexit’ with a small party for staff.
Leading Eurosceptic Steve Baker called for Brexiteers to avoid triumphalism, saying: ‘I will celebrate in a way which is respectful of the genuine sorrow that others are feeling at the same time.’
Fellow Brexiteer Peter Bone called for the introduction of a bank holiday named United Kingdom Day so ‘people will have the day off and say thank goodness for that Brexit vote’.
Light shows and parties for Brexit Day countdown
A SPECIAL CABINET MEETING
Boris Johnson will this morning hold a Cabinet meeting in Sunderland, the first city to declare support for leaving the EU in the referendum. Ministers are expected to discuss the Prime Minister’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and how to use Brexit to spread prosperity and opportunity across the four nations of the UK.
PM ADDRESSES THE NATION
At 10pm, an address by Mr Johnson will be broadcast, calling for the country to come together and move forward.
NO 10 LIGHT SHOW
The UK’s final hour in the EU will be marked with a light display in Downing Street, including a clock counting down to 11pm projected on to the black bricks of the famous building. Ministries around Whitehall will be lit up in red, white and blue. The Government revealed plans for the light show after Mr Johnson failed in his bid to get Big Ben to bong at 11pm, the moment the UK leaves the EU – which will be midnight in Brussels. The Prime Minister is understood to be hosting his own private party in Downing Street.
PARLIAMENT SQUARE PARTY
Nigel Farage is organising a celebration rally from 9pm in Parliament Square. Speakers will include Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe and Tim Martin, the boss of Wetherspoon pubs. Participants are invited to wave flags and sing patriotic songs. Union Jacks have been hung around the square and down The Mall.
BRUSSELS WAVES GOODBYE
About three million 50p coins, minted to mark Brexit, will start showing up today
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will say a final farewell in the European Parliament just before midday. At 7.30pm, a ceremony will see Union flags taken down inside the European Council. After 11pm our time, the UK flag that hangs outside the European Parliament alongside those of other EU member states will be removed. It will go to the House Of European History museum.
About three million 50p coins, minted to mark Brexit, will start showing up today. Pictured left is the Royal Mint’s commemorative gold version, costing £945. Their inscription reads: ‘Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations.’ Chancellor Sajid Javid originally ordered production in advance of the previous departure date of October 31, but the Brexit delay meant about a million had to be melted down.
EVENTS AROUND THE COUNTRY
Pubs and social clubs will be marking the occasion. One such event in Morley, West Yorkshire – billed The Big Brexit Bash – will be attended by Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns and MEP Lucy Harris, and feature fireworks, music, dancing and speeches.
Britain is finally set to leave the EU, but what happens next? The UK and Brussels are braced for 11 months of crunch trade talks before a ‘cliff-edge’ in December (and Boris Johnson wants deals with Japan AND the US in 2020 as well)
By Jack Maidment, Deputy Political Editor for MailOnline
Britain is finally set to leave the European Union but its dealings with the bloc are far from over.
The last three years have almost entirely been about hammering out the terms of the UK’s divorce from Brussels.
Now the two sides must try to agree all of the details of their future relationship before a standstill transition period ends in December.
The EU is adamant that 11 months is not enough time to get the job done, but Boris Johnson is refusing to agree to an extension, setting up a fresh Brexit ‘cliff-edge’ at the end of the year.
Here is a breakdown of all the key dates in the next chapter of the Brexit saga.
Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Downing Street on January 8, will spend 2020 trying to hammer out a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and Brussels
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator pictured in Strasbourg on January 14, will lead talks for the EU
January 31, 2020: The UK formally leaves the European Union at 11pm after more than three years of tortuous wrangling. The two sides enter into a standstill transition period during which they will try to agree the terms of their post-Brexit relationship. EU rules will continue to apply to the UK for the duration of the transition. The Department for Exiting the European Union ceases to exist.
February 2020: The UK will be free to pursue trade deals with whoever it wants. Japan and the US are expected to be Britain’s top targets with initial talks likely to start immediately after Brexit. The UK will also want to kickstart talks with the EU – but the bloc will make Britain wait.
End of February/early March 2020: Before trade talks can start between the UK and the EU, the bloc must agree a negotiating mandate. This mandate will set out the broad terms of what the EU will be striving for during negotiations and will also spell out Brussels’ red lines. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has suggested the mandate may not be finalised until the end of February or early March.
March 2020: Formal trade talks between the UK and the EU are expected to begin. A group of 40 officials called ‘Taskforce Europe’ and based out of the Cabinet Office will lead negotiations for the UK. The taskforce will be headed up by David Frost, a diplomat and one-time business lobbyist who was appointed Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser last year. Mr Frost is expected to negotiate directly with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Brexit plagued Theresa May’s time as prime minister as she failed to persuade MPs to support her EU divorce deal. She is pictured at a summit in Brussels in March last year
April/May 2020: Trade talks between the UK and EU – as well as talks with other nations – will intensify. If major progress has not been made with Brussels then there is likely to be increasing pressure on Mr Johnson to agree to extend the transition period. The terms of Britain’s divorce from the bloc state that the standstill will finish on December 31 and the PM has been adamant he will not agree to an extension. But the Withdrawal Agreement does include a pressure valve mechanism which states that the transition can be prolonged by one or two years if both sides agree. The EU has already said it does not believe the transition period is long enough to finalise a comprehensive agreement so if talks stall in the first half of the year then Brussels could step up demands for a delay.
June/July 2020: The Withdrawal Agreement states that a decision to extend the transition period must be agreed by both sides before July 1, 2020 if it is to go ahead. The PM is expected to stick to his guns and refuse to agree to a delay, setting the stage for transition to end in December, with or without a full deal in place.
July to November 2020: Assuming no transition extension has been agreed, the second half of the year will be fraught with activity as the UK and EU rush to get everything decided. The UK will also be hoping that by this time agreements with Japan and the US will be taking shape, putting pressure on Brussels to work quickly.
September/October 2020: Downing Street is thought to want to have a trade deal with Japan in the books by the autumn to show the EU and the rest of the world it means business. It would be the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal.
November 3, 2020: The date of the US presidential election. The White House has said it wants a trade agreement with the UK in place before the end of the year and will not want talks to clash with Donald Trump’s bid for re-election. That means a US-UK trade deal could be done and dusted before November.
December 2020: The UK and EU will either be on course to end the transition period with a full agreement in place or just a partial agreement. EU bosses have suggested that a lack of time will mean having to prioritise certain issues during talks, potentially leaving others to be resolved at a later date. The UK believes it is possible to get everything done. If no extension has been agreed then the two sides will be going their separate ways regardless.
December 31, 2020: The point at which the Brexit transition period will come to an end and when EU rules and regulations will cease to apply to the UK.
January 1, 2021: EU freedom of movement will be brought to an end and the UK’s new post-Brexit immigration system will be rolled out. The Australian-style points-based system is expected to treat migrants from across the world the same, ending preferential treatment for those from Europe.
This is the REAL Brexit party! Nigel Farage promises to celebrate Britain’s long-awaited EU exit in style tonight – despite no Big Ben’s bongs and no BOOZE
By Jack Maidment, Deputy Political Editor for MailOnline
A defiant Nigel Farage today insisted Brexiteers will have a good time at his Brexit party despite a ban on booze, live music and fireworks.
The Brexit Party leader claimed the ‘Establishment’ had done everything it possibly could to make the event in Parliament Square tonight a ‘damp squib’.
But he said ‘none of that matters’ and the restrictions would not stop him and his fellow Leave voters from marking a ‘remarkable piece of history’.
He told MailOnline: ‘Everything that could be done to make the event a damp squib has been done by the Establishment.
‘From Big Ben which was able to bong on Remembrance Sunday and for New Year, to no fireworks and no alcohol.
‘But do you know what? None of that matters. We are there to mark and celebrate two things.
‘One, a remarkable piece of history. And two, the victory of ordinary people against the political establishment. It can rain if it wants to. It does not matter.’
A taxi unfurls the flags for Brexit as The Mall is transformed into a sea of patriotic red, white and blue ahead of the EU exit tonight
Parliament Square was also today being readied for the Brexit night celebrations as workers put up dozens of Union flags
Remainers have accused Brexiteers of gloating over their victory but some Eurosceptics are expected to stay away from public celebrations
Nigel Farage, pictured in London today, claimed the ‘Establishment’ had attempted to sabotage his plans for a Brexit party in Westminster on Friday night
Stop Brexit Man with a placard outside Parliament ahead of Brexit happening tonight, with the preparations going on all around him
Ain’t no party like a Brexit party: How the UK will celebrating its EU exit
Official celebrations: Will be limited. The UK government celebrations will start with Boris Johnson addressing the nation this evening at 10pm.
Downing Street will be illuminated with a ‘countdown clock’ intended to symbolise the strength and unity of England, Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland, and a light show in Downing Street at 11pm will mark the actual moment when Britain will split from the EU.
Earlier this month week, the House of Commons Commission killed off the idea of Big Ben bonging for Brexit, claiming it would cost more than £500,000 to interrupt huge repair works now under way on the clock and the historic Elizabeth Tower that houses it.
Buildings around Whitehall will also be illuminated and the Union Jack flag will fly on every flag pole in Parliament Square.
Meanwhile, round the corner:
Just a matter of yards away at Parliament Square outside the Palace of Westminster, Brexiteers led by Nigel Farage will hold their own party.
The Leave Means Leave event promised to feature numerous speakers – but it seems live music, alcohol and fireworks have been banned.
Scheduled to speak are JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin, broadcasters Julia Hartley-Brewer and Michelle Dewberry, MEP Ann Widdecombe, Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice and of course, Mr Brexit himself, Nigel Farage.
The festivities start at 9pm and end at 11pm with a recommended minimum donation of £10 to join.
The organisers say: ‘We would also like to ask everyone come in good voice to sing some patriotic songs and bring along as many Union flags as they can, to wave in a patriotic display of pride…. we want to make you aware that Westminster is a ‘Controlled Drinking Zone’ so it is advisable that you do not bring alcohol along.’
And in Brussels: There will also be events in Brussels to mark the occasion.
City authorities organised a so-called ‘Brussels Calling’ event this evening to underline the Belgian capital’s long friendship with the UK.
Meanwhile, Green MEP Magid Magid is hosting an unofficial ‘Brexit’s s***, but let’s party anyway’ gathering tonight night in Place du Luxembourg.
There will also be events to mark Brexit in Brussels with Green MEP Magid Magid hosting a ‘Brexit’s s***, but let’s party anyway’ gathering in Place du Luxembourg.
But that event tonight is likely to be different in tone to Mr Farage’s which was given the go ahead by the Greater London Authority earlier this month.
Workers were busy yesterday afternoon putting up Union flags around the square and along The Mall, ready for the celebrations.
But the event could be quieter than originally expected because the area outside Parliament does not have a licence for live music.
That means any music played must only be incidental to proceedings – for example if it is played in between speeches.
The organisers – the Leave Means Leave campaign group – have also been barred from setting off fireworks while Parliament Square is part of a controlled drinking zone which means revelers will be unable to consume alcohol.
Despite the restrictions, the Brexit Party has labelled the event a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ party.
Proceedings will start at 9pm and end shortly after the UK leaves the EU at 11pm.
A handful of speakers have been confirmed for the party, including Mr Farage, Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice and Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe.
An email sent to Brexit Party supporters said: ‘We would also like to ask everyone to come in good voice to sing some patriotic songs and bring along as many Union flags as they can, to wave in a patriotic display of pride.
‘Finally, we want to make you aware that Westminster is a ‘Controlled Drinking Zone’ so it is advisable that you do not bring alcohol along.
‘We look forward to seeing you all there. Let’s make it a night to remember.’
The organisers had fought for Big Ben – currently undergoing massive renovations – to bong for Brexit at 11pm but their efforts were rejected by parliamentary authorities.
Remainers have accused Brexiteers of gloating over their victory and a number of prominent Eurosceptics have said they will not be celebrating in public due to the need to unite the country.
Mr Farage’s gathering outside the Palace of Westminster will coincide with official government celebrations to mark the moment.
Boris Johnson will start today by hosting a meeting of his Cabinet at a location outside of London as he tries to hammer home his desire to ‘level up’ the rest of the UK.
He is then expected to address the nation this evening before the clock strikes 11pm.
There will also be a countdown clock to the moment of departure with a Downing Street light show also planned.
But in a sign that the government wants to move on from the UK’s departure from the bloc as quickly as possible, it is understood there will be no Brexit-related ministerial activity over the weekend.
In fact, the government is expected to keep quiet on Brexit until the PM delivers a major speech at some point next week when he will set out his plans for trade negotiations with the EU.
Summing up the PM’s desire to move on from Brexit and focus on other things, one government source today said flatly: ‘Brexit will be done on Saturday.’
Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square in central London kept a close eye on preparations for the Brexit party yesterday afternoon
Events to mark Brexit have also been planned in European cities. The city of Brussels organised a ‘Brussels Calling’ event to highlight its friendship with the UK. An activist is pictured waving flags in Grand Place, Brussels, today
Numerous anti-Brexit campaigners attended the event in the Belgian capital just one day after MEPs rubber-stamped the Brexit divorce deal
Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street today during a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is expected to address the nation tonight before the moment of Brexit at 11pm
‘I can’t believe it’s here!’ Nigel Farage launches a final glorious blast as he clears out his Brussels bunker after thirty-year fight to leave the EU
By Jane Fryer for The Daily Mail
Nigel Farage is at his desk in his Brexit Party office in London, surrounded by broken blinds, empty fag packets, cans of sugar-free tonic water (‘only 15 calories a go!’), scattered memos, a china bulldog sporting a Union Jack vest and a couple of badly framed pictures of him beaming next to his great pal President Donald Trump.
Everything he has been yearning for, campaigning for, obsessing over (‘it wasn’t a bit of an obsession — it’s been a total obsession!’) and working towards for nearly three decades is about to come to fruition.
‘This is a huge, huge week for me,’ he says. ‘It’s amazing, isn’t it? I was thinking this morning about that Newbury by-election in June 1992, when the Anti-Federalist League [a cross-party alliance to campaign against the Maastricht Treaty] put up their first ever candidate and I spent seven days of my life campaigning for it.’
He still can’t fathom why he did it.
‘It wasn’t as if I’d ever been particularly driven before. I was actually quite normal then — I was a commodities broker, I played golf, I went to the pub. But that was the real beginning and I still can’t believe it’s happened.’
On the stroke of 11pm tonight, Britain will leave the European Union. Nigel is the man who made it happen and who has changed the political landscape of Britain for ever.
He also did himself out of his 21-year tenure as an MEP and a place in Boris Johnson’s Government — which, after decades of 4.45am starts and relentless campaigning, leaves him facing a bit of a blank.
Nigel Farage at his desk in his Brexit Party office in London, surrounded by broken blinds, empty fag packets, cans of sugar-free tonic water (‘only 15 calories a go!’), scattered memos, a china bulldog sporting a Union Jack vest and a couple of badly framed pictures of him beaming next to his great pal President Donald Trump
‘To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do next,’ he says. ‘I’d love to be on Strictly [Come Dancing]! It’s got everything going for it, but it’s difficult for me.’
As he speaks, he rolls up his left trouser leg, pulls down a stripy sock, places a shiny shoe on his messy desk and waggles a white, surprisingly muscular calf at me.
‘Look, look, look. I’ve got a great lump of bone sticking out of my leg, from a car crash years ago. I’m not sure I could do it. Though my daughters would love it!’
One last flash and he puts it away.
He’s less keen on appearing on I’m A Celebrity . ‘They’d pay me a fortune, but it’s not top of my bucket list.’
To more serious matters: he insists he hasn’t decided about his memoirs yet, but is planning a 120-page book about 2019, as well as a longer tome ‘on the whole populist wave’.
Of the persistent rumour that his next role will be Trump’s warm-up man in the 2020 presidential campaign, he is dismissive: ‘That is unrealistic. Totally unrealistic.’
But he likes the U.S., says he and Trump message each other and confirms he’ll be at the State of the Union speech next week.
‘I’m a foreigner, but I’m very well known there,’ he explains.
He’s well known everywhere. Over the past 27 years, Farage has gone from a national joke and one of Ukip’s ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’ (as infamously described by David Cameron in 2006), to become arguably one of the most significant British politicians in living memory and a populist hero to Britons who felt ignored by the Westminster elite.
Some say he overplayed his hand in the general election last year, assuming he could bargain with Boris Johnson for shared power.
In the event, he stepped his Brexit Party candidates down from 317 seats which had been won by the Tories in the 2017 election to avoid splitting the vote.
He also did himself out of his 21-year tenure as an MEP and a place in Boris Johnson’s Government — which, after decades of 4.45am starts and relentless campaigning, leaves him facing a bit of a blank
But if he’d expected reciprocity — the Tories standing down in traditional Labour seats in the North and North-East — he was to be disappointed. Boris did not oblige, a Tory landslide in those areas followed and the rest is history.
‘They didn’t give much back! But I’ve come to realise that, unlike business, in politics everyone behaves badly,’ he says. ‘We gave them the election on a plate, but I couldn’t be responsible for a second referendum.’
So Nigel’s Brexit became Boris’s Brexit. ‘But what else could it be?’ he cries. ‘If I’d wanted it to be my Brexit, I’d have had to rejoin the Conservatives and I think they’re ghastly.
‘I mean . . . Matt Hancock! What a weasel. Christ. Are these people really running our country? I wouldn’t let him wash my cars.’
And the deal? ‘The deal’s dreadful! And I would not have sold out for it,’ he says, but insists he was provided with two assurances to ease the pain: that we leave properly by the end of 2020 and that we commit to not having regulatory alignment. Right now, though, he’s more animated about how Boris aped his ‘man of the people’ style on the stump.
‘He carbon-copied everything!’ he cries. ‘I got into the boxing ring with the No 6 heavyweight in the world (who, incidentally, could have killed me!). Within a fortnight, Boris was in the boxing ring!’
He warms to his theme. ‘I went to Grimsby market and picked up a haddock. Three weeks later, Boris went to Grimsby and picked up a haddock!’ He insists the Tories copied both the Brexit Party’s rallies — ‘with pyrotechnics and music and glow sticks and me entering from the back’ — and their website, too.
‘They even copied the font! Cummings is not stupid. He copied it because it worked.’
Does it annoy him? ‘Look, their motives are different from mine. They’d sell their own granny. But I want Boris to succeed. We are where we are, and I feel satisfied.’
In person, Nigel is good company, breaking off from Brexit to extol the benefits of filling your freezer with plates of quartered limes to be eternally gin-ready.
He’ll answer pretty much anything — other than questions about his romantic life, which he describes as ‘mostly with someone’, but refuses to clarify what that means or who it involves.
When we meet, he’s about to head off to Brussels to clear his desk. I ask if, maybe, he’ll pocket a sentimental keepsake. Perhaps a nice EU ashtray? ‘They’re far too PC for ashtrays!’ he roars.
While he loathes Brussels — ‘it’s a dump. It’s full of litter, broken paving stones and crime’ — he likes Strasbourg, the formal home of the European Parliament, and adored being the pantomime villain ‘with them all booing’.
‘To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do next,’ he says. ‘I’d love to be on Strictly [Come Dancing]! It’s got everything going for it, but it’s difficult for me’
He certainly couldn’t have looked happier as he made his triumphant farewell speech at the EU Parliament on Wednesday, waving his Union Jacks in a final act of defiance and having his microphone cut off as punishment.
Today, he can’t conceal his joy at having had the last laugh over David Cameron.
‘He’s a pro-China globaliser who never had any conviction or panache. Or anything, really,’ he says. ‘There are people who disappear from history and Cameron is one of them. In 100 years, kids at school will know about as much about Cameron as kids today know about Andrew Bonar Law — he was our PM in 1922. No one’s ever heard of him!’
There’s certainly no danger of that happening to Farage. While rumours of a knighthood are gathering pace, he doesn’t fancy the House of Lords.
‘Look, in 2016 it was made clear that if I wanted to go into the Lords, then I could. I said, no. It would take me out of the front line.’
And since then? Was he offered a sweetener for the 317 seats?
‘No, no, no! I’m not for sale and anyway, I’d hate the House of Lords — 600 of Blair and Cameron’s mates? No thank you. Though the food is subsidised.’
And there is a bar . . .
For all his clattery lifestyle, Nigel Farage looks good. His rubbery skin is smooth (though he insists he’s had no work done), his hands soft and delicate, and he is trim (he does exercises on his bedroom floor every morning).
He bounces about like a mad thing, fuelled by fags (‘we don’t count how many’) and booze —’I’ve cut down massively, but if you start work by half past five, you deserve a couple of glasses of wine by lunch time.’
In a Channel 4 documentary this week, he said: ‘Of course politics is about sales. It’s about selling ideas, it’s about selling hope, sometimes it’s about selling fear.’
Well, it certainly worked for him. Somehow, where others failed, he managed to unite Ukip and put them on the map. He connected with the public.
When he stepped down in 2016, the party imploded with allegations of racism.
His total inability to feel self-conscious or embarrassed — ‘I nearly died in a plane crash on election day in 2010; why am I going to care what the world’s elite think of me?’ — has protected him from the insults, pints, eggs and excrement that have been hurled at him over the years.
‘I’ve been on the front page of every sodding newspaper, and in some it was like Oswald Mosley had come back from the dead,’ he says.
‘The worst is being in London and people constantly throwing drinks over me in the pub. Some of it has been very hard.’
But he never once wavered, always ready with a pithy quote and a gurning grin.
‘I nearly became the patron saint of lost causes, but I kept on going,’ he says.
Today his work is done. ‘We’re moving on. The war is over,’ he says. ‘The healing process is happening — it’s really happening.’
Not that he will accept any responsibility for the bitterness that has prevailed in Britain over Brexit.
‘What caused people to fall out was not the Referendum, but the refusal of the Establishment to accept the result, which caused a tribal split, and I blame them for that.’
He accepts, though, that he is fully responsible for the price paid by his own family.
There are two failed marriages — first to Grainne Hayes, with whom he has two grown-up sons. His second marriage, to the German-born Kirsten (they have two daughters, aged 19 and 14) never really recovered after reports of Nigel’s seven times-a-night tryst with a Latvian lady in 2006.
He has previously described himself as ‘an appalling husband and bad father’.
Is that still fair?
‘Well, I could have been better!’ he says. ‘But if you really dedicate yourself to something and it becomes such a part of your being, that you have to make a success of it, come what may, then everyone has to pay a price for it.’
So it was worth it?
‘Yes. Yes it was,’ he says firmly.
But what of his teenage daughters?
‘It’s been very tough for them. And the surname — it’s a very rare surname.’
Were they tempted to change it?
‘Well . . . they haven’t, but it’s been difficult. And as we all know, the internet’s a horrible place. It’s been pretty brutal.’
Seriously, though, what is he going to do? ‘I don’t know, but I need to be busy. If I have too much time, I’d be in the pub, wouldn’t I? And that would not be good. The pub should be a reward, not a way of life.’
He says he is ready to help any other country that wants to leave the EU and has no plans to give up his four-times-a-week LBC radio show. ‘I’m good at making people feel differently about things,’ he says. ‘Smart motorways! Don’t even get me started!’
My bet is that, very soon, ‘Sir Nigel’ will be spending far more time in America with his pal Donald than here. But, right now, he’s counting down to tonight’s Brexit bonanza in Trafalgar Square.
‘They’ve told me no fireworks. And there’s no Big Ben, which is crazy. It rang for Remembrance Sunday and New Year. You do feel the Civil Service are embarrassed about Brexit, rather than celebrating,’ he says. ‘We’ve said there’ll be no triumphalism, but we’ll see . . .’
And the ‘after party’, he promises, will ‘crack on’ until well after dawn.
‘I’ve got to see the sun rise over an independent United Kingdom! This is the biggest constitutional change for us since Henry VIII left the Church of Rome. It’s the biggest shift in 500 years. It’s the point of no return!’
And it’s all down to Nigel.