London : Britain’s anti-EU party UKIP elected former history lecturer Paul Nuttall as its new leader today to take over from Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage, a political ally of US President-elect Donald Trump, reports AFP.
Nuttall promised to unite the party — a driving force behind Britain’s vote to leave the EU — which has been under threat from bitter infighting and a plunge in funding following Farage’s departure announcement.
In his farewell speech, Farage promised he would not be a “backseat driver” in the party but would see out his term as European Parliament lawmaker until 2020 and continue with his Brexit campaigning.
Farage said the European project was now “fatally weakened”, predicting setbacks in Austria, France, Italy and the Netherlands in the coming months.
“Be in no doubt that it is UKIP that is seen as the leading eurosceptic group across the entire continent,” Farage said at a conference in London where the result of the leadership ballot of party members was announced. Tensions within UKIP burst into the open when newly-elected party leader Diane James stepped down in October just 18 days after winning a previous leadership ballot. A fight then broke out between UKIP MEPs in the European Parliament in Strasbourg that put then leadership favourite Steven Woolfe in hospital.
Nuttall, 39, stressed the need for unity in the party and said his role would be to ensure that there will be no backsliding on Brexit by the government.