Nigel Farage is sitting in a black leather armchair in his European Parliament office in Brussels. In front of him is a glass table, and next to him is a coffin. The casket, with a large euro sign stuck to the front, has been standing there next to his desk for years. The symbolism is impossible to miss. For the last 20 years, Farage has been fighting against the EU and against the euro. He would like to bury both – which is why he ran for European Parliament as a member of UKIP, his party.
Farage's mission is to destroy the EU from within. He was the face of the Leave campaign, which ultimately led to the successful Brexit referendum last year. As head of UKIP, he was an instrumental public figure in convincing the British public to vote in favor of the country's historic exit from the EU.
Along with David Cameron and Boris Johnson, Farage is one of the key initiators of Brexit. To demonstrate as much, he put on his United Kingdom socks for the day of our interview. The Union Jack is clearly visible between his suit pants and his shoes. "Proud. Ohh, I don't know about proud." But he does say at the beginning of the interview that he is amused by the incipient Brexit negotiations. The interview was organized by his press spokesman, who is also present.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Farage, parliamentary elections are to be held in your homeland in just a few weeks. Why are you sitting here in Brussels in your British socks instead of helping out with the Brexit negotiations back home?
Nigel Farage: If the British government had asked me to help them in any way with Brexit, I would have done that. But of course, they wouldn’t. They will always hate me. They will always see me as an outsider. They will never forgive me for being successful. I don’t mind.
ZEIT ONLINE: What is your role here in European Parliament?
Farage: In some ways, I am one of the pan-European political figures there are here. I am well known in every European country. And actually, Euro-skeptic groups in some way see me as the grandfather of Euro-skepticism.
ZEIT ONLINE: You see yourself as pan-European? How can you fight against something that you yourself embody?
Farage: That's ironic. I know.
ZEIT ONLINE: Since 1999, European Parliament has paid your salary as a representative. Why do you accept money from an institution that you want to destroy? How can I explain that to my eight-year-old daughter?
Farage: You tell your daughter that a wave of insanity overcame the political classes of Europe. Europe is not the EU. It's not about a flag. It's not about an anthem. It's a totally false creation. I am working for a real Europe, one that does not attempt to take away from individual member states the nationality, the identity.
ZEIT ONLINE: You don't look like you have lost your British identity.
Farage: We British are not allowed to have our own foreign policy. We are not allowed to have our own trade policy. This is not Europe. We have to break this down. Britain is just the start. The EU is dying. The whole project is finished. It's dying, it's dying.
ZEIT ONLINE: Do you still remember June 23, 2016, the day that Brexit was passed?
Farage: It was one of the best days of my life. Oh yes, in my career, it was the best day ever. After all these years of trying and after all these years of being lonely, it was a big day.
Farage is now in his element, saying things that he repeated hundreds of times during the Brexit campaign last summer. Prior to the campaign, Farage faced accusations that he had misused EU funds. According to a story in the Times, the EU paid almost 60,000 pounds to his personal bank account although some of the money had been earmarked for the upkeep of his parliamentary office not far from Littlehampton. That office, however, was in a house that Farage, as head of the UKIP party, had been allowed to use free of charge. After the Times reported on the inconsistencies, Farage threatened the paper with legal proceedings and levelled accusations against the journalists. He denied that he had done anything improper. As a result of the affair, it came out that Farage and other MEPs from UKIP had only begun filling out EU transparency reports, including for the reimbursement of office expenditures, in 2009.
ZEIT ONLINE: Who financed your Leave campaign?
Farage: Who financed the whole Remain campaign for over 50 years? The government.
ZEIT ONLINE: You didn't answer the question.
Farage: Individuals. Individuals from the UK.
ZEIT ONLINE: And with money from Russia?