Farage Says 'Brexit' Could Push Others to Leave EU

Nigel Farage
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage in London on Tuesday June 7 2016. Farage said it is looking likely that the Remain camp will edge the landmark vote. Neil Hall/Reuters

The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage said he believes that Britain leaving the European Union will lead the rest of Europe to follow its example, and that the bloc itself is doomed.

"I want us to get back our independence but to say we'll be good Europeans, we'll trade with Europe, co-operate with Europe, but govern ourselves," Farage said on Tuesday during an ITV special program ahead of the U.K.'s EU membership referendum on June 23. "I believe when we do, that the rest of Europe will do that too."

"A happy Europe will be a democratic Europe of sovereign states who are good neighbours in the same street," he added, and said of the EU: "I think it's done for, frankly."

Farage was grilled on live national TV by a studio audience, before Prime Minister David Cameron faced the same treatment later on, and the UKIP leader was forced to defend controversial comments he made in a Sunday Telegraph interview over the weekend, where he suggested that a vote to remain in the EU could lead to sex attacks on the streets of Britain.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, England's most senior Christian cleric, said on Tuesday that Farage was "giving legitimisation to racism." On Tuesday night's program, Farage hit back, saying: "Well I'm sorry, and I'm not going to stand here and attack the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I think he would have done better to have read actually what I said and not what the headline was."

Farage said that campaigners for a Remain vote had blown what he said out of proportion, and that he merely meant to stress his support for border controls and his objections to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal asylum policy.

Responding to a question concerning the possibility that the EU would seek to punish Britain by giving it a bad deal if it left, Farage said that no deal could be tougher on Britain than the contributions it currently pays to the EU. "'No deal' is better than the rotten deal that we've got at the moment," he said.

Cameron, meanwhile, sought to paint a vote to Remain in the EU as a reasonable, risk-averse choice, and said that Britain could play a leading role in Europe after the referendum.

The prime minister said that he "worries" about a British exit from the bloc leading to a "second Scottish [independence] referendum," a claim often made by Scottish Nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon.

And Cameron argued that annoyance with the EU should not lead Britons to give up its benefits. "Frustrations with an institution or indeed with a relationship are often not an argument for walking away, they're an argument for staying and fighting," he said.

"We don't want the Little England of Nigel Farage," he continued, "we want to be Great Britain, and we're great if we stay in these organisations and fight for the sort of values we believe in."