The leader of the insurgent right-wing U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) said Monday he would be stepping down after realizing his ambition to win a vote for Britain to leave the EU, the latest twist in a dramatic reshaping of the nation's politics.
The departure of brash former commodities trader Nigel Farage would sideline one of the most outspoken and effective anti-EU campaigners from the debate about how to sever Britain's ties with the other 27 countries in the bloc.
But it could also give his party — which under Britain's winner-takes-all election system won just one seat in Parliament last year despite capturing 12.6 per cent of the vote — an opportunity to select a less polarizing figure and take on the mainstream in a radically altered political environment.
"I have never been, and I have never wanted to be, a career politician. My aim in being in politics was to get Britain out of the European Union," said Farage, who remains a UKIP member of the European Parliament.
"During the referendum campaign, I said, 'I want my country back.' What I'm saying today, is, 'I want my life back,' and it begins right now."
'The result is the result is the result'
In an interview with CBC Radio's As It Happens, Farage acknowledged there is still work ahead, but he doesn't feel he can "directly affect" what's next.
"My main job in politics is done.… We voted in the referendum to say we should leave the EU and I don't see what more I can achieve," he told host Susan Bonner. "It's time for somebody else to take it on, develop things and take the party forward."
Farage suggested he's been disappointed to see so much attention focused on those expressing their dismay about the referendum's outcome. Thousands took to the streets of London over the weekend to protest the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union.
"I can promise you that I meet people every day that are thrilled, they are delighted, they can't believe that we've managed to beat the establishment," he said. "Although I think when people realize that there is normal life outside being governed by a bunch of unelected old men in Brussels, then I think things will calm down."
Farage brushed off questions about who was responsible for some of the anger stirred up in the wake of the Brexit vote. Critics have said some of the Leave campaign's tactics veered toward blatant racism, and there's been a spike in the number of hate crimes reported since the June 23 referendum.
"I take responsibility for helping Britain become a democratic, self-governing nation again that will get back the sovereignty of its Parliament, the supremacy of its cause, its ability to make its own trade deals with countries like Canada … and yes, to control our borders to have a sensible, mature immigration policy," he said. "And that is what I've been fighting for now for nearly a quarter of a century."
The Brexit vote has also thrown both of the two main political parties into disarray, with the ruling Conservatives seeking a replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron and lawmakers from the main opposition Labour Party voting to withdraw confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn.
With Corbyn so far refusing to step down, Labour lawmaker Angela Eagle said she had the necessary support to trigger a leadership challenge and resolve the "impasse" crippling the party. Corbyn issued a video appealing for unity.
Market uncertainty continues
The acrimonious leadership battles in the main political parties have added to uncertainty at a time when Britain is embarking on its biggest constitutional change since the dissolution of its empire in the decades after the Second World War.
Global markets have been hit by uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on trade and investment, and concerns that Britain's departure could prompt other EU members to consider following suit.
George Osborne, the country's finance minister, has abandoned his target of balancing the budget within four years and floated the idea on Sunday of a quick cut in the rate of corporation tax to less than 15 per cent from 20 per cent to show that Britain was still "open for business." Labour accused him of trying to turn the country into an offshore tax haven.
Osborne told Parliament he would meet the heads of major banks on Tuesday for discussions on Brexit.
"We are not today — although we remain vigilant — talking about a banking crisis, despite a very significant adjustment in financial markets," he said.
The pound has recovered only slightly from a 31-year low, and the FTSE 100 share index fell 0.8 per cent on Monday, although it has bounced three per cent since the referendum.
Race to replace Cameron
Theresa May, a Conservative Party stalwart who has run the law-and-order portfolio in the cabinet for six years, is the favourite to succeed Cameron despite having campaigned to remain in the EU.
According to bookmakers, her strongest rival is Andrea Leadsom, 53, a junior minister who was unknown to most Britons before the referendum campaign but was widely judged to have mounted an effective case for Leave in an eve-of-vote televised debate seen by millions.
Leadsom, setting out her leadership credentials on Monday, said talks over Britain's departure from the EU should be as short as possible to avoid prolonged uncertainty.
Despite the 52 per cent referendum vote, Britain has not yet invoked Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to begin the formal process of breaking away. While all the candidates to succeed Cameron say there is no going back, some anti-Brexit politicians say it is still not a foregone conclusion.
Law firm Mishcon de Reya said on Monday it had started legal action to demand the government win approval from Parliament before triggering the divorce process. Most of the 650 members of the House of Commons opposed Brexit.
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Former defence minister Liam Fox, a pro-Brexit figure and outsider in the leadership contest, said Britain should activate Article 50 before the end of the year and did not believe any Parliament vote was needed.
The other leadership contenders are Work and Pensions Minister Stephen Crabb and Justice Minister Michael Gove, a Leave campaigner who caused high political drama last week by turning against his ally, former London mayor Boris Johnson.
- This article originally referred to Stephen Crabb and Michael Gove as members of the Labour Party. They are both Conservatives.Jul 05, 2016 9:22 AM ET
With files from The Associated Press