- In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Nigel Farage talks coronavirus vaccines, pub passports, and the Prime Minister’s stance towards China
- Former UKIP leader insists he has been an environmentalist all of his life
By GLEN OWEN
PUBLISHED: 22:32, 27 March 2021 | UPDATED: 02:52, 28 March 2021
Meet Nigel Farage 2.0: a healthy-looking figure, sipping mineral water in a Knightsbridge hotel as he announces that he is transitioning from polarising Brexit insurgent to hug-a-husky green activist.
The former Ukip leader is regenerating, Doctor Who-style, into a paid expert on ‘carbon-offset’ – the planting of trees to mitigate the environmental impact of big business. Surprising? Not really, says Farage, insisting that he is a lifelong pro-countryside campaigner who even voted Green at the 1989 European elections – although that was mainly because it was the only Eurosceptic option on the table.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Farage also riffs on more familiar topics: taking aim at the EU over its vaccine fiasco and at Boris Johnson for floating the idea of ‘pub passports’ post-lockdown.
Farage also riffs on more familiar topics: taking aim at the EU over its vaccine fiasco and at Boris Johnson for floating the idea of ‘pub passports’ post-lockdown.
He is also withering about the Prime Minister’s submissive stance towards China, even suggesting that it could be influenced by the business interests of the Johnson clan.
Mr Farage is here to publicise his first business appointment since stepping down as leader of Reform UK, the successor to the Brexit Party, earlier this month. In a counter-narrative choice, he will lead the advisory board for the Dutch Green Business Group, which invests in forests around the globe to balance the carbon ‘footprint’ of companies and individuals. Under the carbon ‘exchange rate’, a passenger taking a round trip flight from London to New York would need to plant 60 trees to offset their emissions.
‘I’ve been an environmentalist all my life!’ booms Farage. ‘There is a fantastic natural balance that man has with the environment. What is happening to the Indonesian rainforest, what is happening in the Amazon, what is happening elsewhere, so that we can have palm oil and eat McDonald’s burgers, is actually catastrophic for the world.
‘I’ve been a member of so many wildlife and countryside organisations, it’s not true. Sadly, I’ve left nearly all of them because environmentalism has been so hijacked by the extreme Left.’
Mr Farage says he wants to wrestle green issues away from statist interventionists – and enter the world of carbon trading, which is worth £180 billion a year globally.
‘The whole debate around carbon, around climate change, around environmentalism, has been so dominated by the desire to ban things, to tax things and to use taxpayers’ money to subsidise things, that I got to thinking, ‘Why doesn’t anyone ever say anything positive?
Mr Farage has been appointed advisory board lead for the Dutch Green Business Group
The point allows him to segue into the influence of Tory Party environmentalists such as Boris Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and her ally, Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith.
‘It is very easy being upper middle-class and wealthy and talking about all these things but let’s be honest about it, if we are actually going to install heat pumps by law in everybody’s house, people are going to be out of pocket.
‘To Zac and Carrie, that’s just cool, because what’s ten grand?’
Referring to claims that Ms Symonds holds powerful sway over Downing Street, he says: ‘I find her influence disturbing and way too strong but then, we have a Prime Minister who doesn’t really have a strong political philosophy or ideology that underpins what he does, so it is perhaps not surprising.’
The achievement of his life’s ambition – Brexit – led to a period of uncharacteristic soul-searching by Farage during lockdown: denied his trademark pints in the pub, he instead paced the countryside by his Kent home and pondered the future.
Mr Farage said he finds Carrie Symonds’ ‘influence’ over Downing street ‘disturbing’
He said: ‘The most difficult thing in politics is choosing when to get out and how to get out. I think I worked harder in politics than anyone you’ve ever met. I was a full-on 24/7 fanatic. Time for the odd beer, yes, but I was a fanatic and, do you know something, I’ve done it, I don’t need to live that way any more’.
Farage concluded that the best time to leave the political stage would be while the EU was mired in chaos over its sluggish vaccine procurement, while the UK raced ahead with its own plans, having wrestled free from the shackles of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The contrast has turned some of the most hard-bitten Remainers into born-again Brexiteers.
‘At a time when the world can see that leaving the EMA will undoubtedly save thousands, maybe tens of thousands of lives in this country, what better moment could I have chosen to do it?
‘We made those decisions. We had Kate Bingham as our vaccine Tsar: in Europe, they had a lady from Cyprus with a degree in psychology in charge [Stella Kyriakides, known as ‘Calamity Kyriakides’] and look what a mess it is! And now you’ve got Ursula von der Leyen threatening to seize control of the means of production.
Mr Farage said the potential pub passports are ‘unworkable’ and put further strain on pubs
‘Now there is a word for that, it’s called communism.
‘I couldn’t have wished for anything that was more important or gave greater clarity. I’m disappointed for the people in Europe, they haven’t got the vaccine but I’m pleased that European solidarity has broken down and that people are realising actually, their duty is to look after the people that voted for them.
‘Death is national and there has been a very big reawakening among European electorates.’
The twice-married 57-year-old adds reflectively: ‘I regret in some ways the cost of [his political career] to me and those around me over a long period of time, but in terms of what I think I achieved politically in really turning around the debate in this country on a key issue I’m very happy’.
Johnson’s plans to introduce vaccine passports for pub-goers elicit a predictably trenchant response. ‘God help us!’ Farage cackles. ‘How does it work?
‘Let’s say on April 12 I want to go to the Blacksmith’s Arms in Cudham with my son who’s 29. He hasn’t had the jab so can he come in or can he not come in?
Farage is pessimistic about the chances of foreign holidays this year in light of coronavirus
‘It’s unworkable and frankly, to put this upon our struggling publicans at this moment in time would be completely outrageous. This one won’t fly. The funny thing about Boris is, everyone says he is this free-market libertarian. But what we have seen all through this is that Boris doesn’t really stand for very much at all.’
Farage is pessimistic about the chances of foreign holidays. ‘I think it’ll be a staycation summer, it’s the bucket-and-spade English seaside holiday again. It might actually be the responsible thing to restrict people’s travel because they are months and months behind with catching up with this.’
Mr Farage admits that the success of the vaccine roll-out and the ineffectiveness of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer means that ‘the British public are of a mind to forgive Boris everything else… there is no opposition. To be honest, whatever his flaws, I suspect he can be Prime Minister for as long as he wants.’
The latest round of hostilities between the UK and China, with Beijing imposing sanctions on nine UK citizens, including five parliamentarians, who have been among its most vocal critics, leads Farage to question whether Johnson has been tough enough with the Chinese regime – and if not, why not?
Mr Farage claims that Boris Johnson’s family are ‘pro-China’ and ‘pro this particular regime’
He said: ‘Boris’s family are not just pro-China, many of Boris’s family are pro this particular regime. His brother Max graduated in Beijing, worked for Goldman Sachs in Beijing and is now in Hong Kong.
‘When he was asked about all the arrests and suppression of democracy, Max Johnson said, ‘It’s part of China now.’ Which tells you quite a lot!
‘Then you’ve got [Boris’s brother] Jo, who twinned Reading University with one of the communication technology universities in China; and then there is the ever more mysterious role of Stanley, who appears to have been acting as an interlocutor between the previous Chinese ambassador and No 10, running messages back and forth. Now Stanley has gone even further, to basically say China is our future and this is where we need to be.
‘I wonder what is Stanley Johnson’s role in all of this? Would it be unfair to ask whether he financially benefits out of these pronouncements that he’s making?’
Mr Farage adds that in addition to the family factors, ‘many of the influences in the upper echelons of Conservatism for the last decade have been pro Beijing – Osborne, Cameron, that whole Old Etonian set, all of whom have seen China as the way to be rich and powerful.
Mr Farage suggested that Stanley Johnson, the PM’s father, takes money from China
‘Boris declares himself to be a Sinophile but he is in danger on this just as Cameron fell further and further and further away from the centre of the parliamentary party on Europe. You can’t write off the Chinasceptics as being a bunch of swivel-eyed loons, you just can’t do that.’ Mr Farage shares his views on China with his political soulmate Donald Trump, who he says was ‘absolutely right’ about the World Health Organisation engaging in a ‘whitewash’ over its investigation into the origins of the pandemic in Wuhan.
He says Trump is ‘lying relatively low down at Mar-a-Lago’, since leaving the White House. ‘I think he’s actually quite enjoyed it. He is playing a bit of golf.’
Can he envisage Trump running against Meghan Markle – who is said to harbour political ambitions – in the 2024 race?
‘That’s a delicious thought. He is in a very, very, very powerful position. The grassroots love him.’
Mr Farage is looking forward to a new chapter, losing weight and exercising more
Despite the mineral water, Farage still enjoys a drink – alternated with the occasional ‘dry day’.
‘I recently had five days off, that’s quite good isn’t it?’ he says proudly.
The distinctive brand image of him clutching a pint of bitter outside a pub was created in the wake of a Mail on Sunday interview nine years ago, at the Marquis of Granby in Westminster.
‘You published these pictures of me at the pub and the inference was that somehow Farage is a complete drunk. So we said, b******s to it, let’s take this the other way, let’s make a feature of it, let’s actually ham this up.’
But now we have version 2.0: ‘I’ve lost 20lb since lockdown started. I’m out walking, I’m exercising. I am probably fitter than I’ve been for 20 years actually. I’m looking forward to doing different things now. A new chapter!