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Britain's Nigel Farage quits as leader of pro-Brexit party

By Aditi Khanna
Last updated on: July 04, 2016 17:24 IST
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Nigel Farage, who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, on Monday quit as the leader of the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party, saying he wanted his "life back" as he has fulfilled his political ambition of 'Brexit'.

Farage, 52, said he has done his bit for the cause of Britain leaving the 28-member economic bloc.

"I have never been and never wanted to be a career politician," said Farage, who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for UK Independence Party in 1999.

"I now feel that I've done my bit, that I couldn't possibly achieve more," he told reporters. "I feel it's right that I should now stand aside as leader of UKIP."

Farage, who led a separate grassroots campaign to convince voters of a 'Brexit', had made numerous speeches in the wake of the result to declare June 23 Britain's "Independence Day."

He was at the heart of some of the biggest controversies during the campaign, including an anti-immigration poster of refugees flocking to enter southern Europe, which was dubbed as a "vile" by both the 'Remain' and 'Leave' camps.

He has quit as UKIP leader twice before -- in 2009 over party infighting and in 2015 after failing to become an MP. But on both occasions decided to stay.

He, however, insisted on Monday that "I won't be changing my mind again, I promise you".

"The victory for the 'Leave' side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved," he said.

"During the referendum campaign, I said 'I want my country back'... now I want my life back, and it begins right now."

He said the UKIP was instrumental in winning the referendum for the Leave campaign, championing the issue of immigration, and insisted it would continue as a party in its current form.

The UKIP would continue to stop "weakness or appeasement from the British government" when it comes to negotiating Brexit with the economic bloc, the anti-immigrant party leader said.

He said he now wants a cross party team to negotiate the UK's exit from Brussels but he said the most important thing was that the team knows how to win the best deal.

"An absolute priority is to bring in business people," he added.

Farage has had two stints as leader of the Eurosceptic party since 2006.

The race will now begin to find his successor. Possible candidates include deputy leader Paul Nuttall, immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe and culture spokesman Peter Whittle. 

Farage declined to endorse a successor, saying: "May the best man or woman win."

The UKIP has a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, three representatives in the House of Lords, and 22 MEPs, making it the largest UK party in the European Parliament.

Britain voted to leave the economic bloc in a historic referendum on June 23, in which 52 per cent Britons sided with Brexit to 48 per cent supporting the UK within the EU.

A political turmoil has gripped Britain since the vote. Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned in favour of the UK remaining in the EU has announced he will resign following the loss. A leadership contest is underway to replace him.

Image: Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

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Aditi Khanna in London
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