But you’re known, I suppose, as Mr. Brexit, you know.
Well that’s what Donald Trump calls me, so yeah.
Is it something you wear with honor?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, look, I think I’ve managed, and albeit took me over 20 years of hard work, I think I’ve managed to change the whole political debate in this country by saying something that many people privately thought but no one dared speak. And so, yeah, I’ve changed political debate in this country, but, you know, I’m now a frustrated man because it’s not being delivered.
When you look at the state of U.K. politics now and the utter paralysis it’s in, are you to blame for the U.K. being in this situation?
I said, in 2012, that I was going to cause an earthquake in British politics, and we’ve still got the aftershocks of that initial earthquake and I think there’s a strong possibility now that the two party system that for 100 years has dominated British politics is about to fall apart. We’re about to get new electoral choices in this country. Is change a bad thing? No, I think change could be a very good thing.
Do you believe that during the referendum you explained the situation properly to voters?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I said we’re going to be independent, we’re going to be free. I can’t guarantee what deals come in the future which is why I coined the phrase, no deal is better than a bad deal. But, you know, what price freedom? What price democracy? What price being an independent, self-governing nation? That is what Brexit is all about.
But you campaigned for leave, you didn’t have a plan on what the country should do once it did leave.
I had absolutely a plan. I said as I had said for 25 years, we should negotiate a simple free trade agreement. I couldn’t have been clearer. I wanted to have a simple trade deal, but not membership of any political club.
Once the leave voters had won the referendum, why did you quit as leader of UKIP?
Well, because we’d won and getting out of a top’s always a good thing in life. It’s good advice to everybody. There’s an old saying that all political careers end in failure. I thought well I’ll try and make sure mine doesn’t end in failure, but I couldn’t see what more I could do, frankly, at that moment in time.
You’re saying voters have every right to feel betrayed by this prolonged process of trying to achieve Brexit.
Would the voters behind UKIP not feel betrayed after you left them after persuading them to vote leave?
Well they had, they’d had 25 years of my life. I’d ruined my life to build a political party. I’d given them everything for 25 years.
So that’s your excuse for leaving UKIP? Because you’ve had enough.
It’s not an excuse. I’d let a party from in the fringe of the fringe to winning a national election to forcing a referendum, to helping to win it. I couldn’t see at that moment in time what more there was to do.
But this is the turning point in U.K. politics that you’ve identified yourself as history making moment in U.K. politics and you left.
And I was excluded from the next stage of the process. There wasn’t any more I could do.
But couldn’t you agitate for change more as a powerful leader of UKIP?
Well, where was I to go on? Was I to give it 50 years or 60 years or 70? Here we are three years on and it hasn’t happened, which is why I’m now going to have to reenter the political fray. I’d rather not have to, but I’m going to do it.
So you’ve had enough of politics but you have reentered politics.
I’ve got no choice. I’ve got no choice. I can’t give something 25 years of my life and watch our career politicians roll it over and just stand aside. So now I’m coming back. It is 90% likely that we will fight the European elections again in this country on May the 23rd. Yeah. I’ll be in that battle.
It sounds like somewhat of a contradiction to me.
Doesn’t it? Of course it does, but life is full of all sorts of strange ironies. I would much rather not have to do this, but I’m going to do it, and we will win again.
Hello, I’m Sarah Abo. Thanks for watching. To keep up with the latest from 60 Minutes Australia, make sure you subscribe to our channel. You can also download the 9Now app for full episodes and other exclusive 60 Minutes content.