President-elect Donald Trump has formed a close bond with Nigel Farage, the divisive former leader of the United Kingdom’s Independence Party.
The 51-year-old British politician, nicknamed “Mr. Brexit,” is known for his anti-immigrant, populist views, and his tendency to burn bridges—even with those in his own party. Farage spoke at Trump’s rallies earlier this year and was the first British politician to meet with Trump stateside after his election win, according to the Week. Trump’s hope for Farage to become the next U.K. ambassador to the United States immediately raised alarm bells on both sides of the pond and apparently even surprised Farage himself.
The office of Prime Minister Theresa May, however, tweeted on Tuesday that there was “no vacancy” for the role of U.K. ambassador. Trump has repeatedly snubbed the British PM; he called 10 other world leaders after his victory before reaching Mays.
Farage decried the criticisms on Breitbart. “I have known several of the Trump team for years and I am in a good position with the president-elect’s support to help,” Farage wrote. “The world has changed and it’s time that Downing Street did too.”
Here are 3 things you should know about Nigel Farage.
1) He’s not known for diplomacy
Farage has alienated members of his own party, known as Ukip, during what is considered one of the roughest periods of its history. After Ukip leader Dianne James announced her decision to quit the party, Farage accused her of “irrational selfishness” and demanded she quit Parliament altogether. A physical fight actually broke out between two members at a Ukip meeting back in October, according to the Independent. Farage described the incident, which led to his favored replacement Steven Woolfe collapsing and being hospitalized, as “something from a Third World Parliament.”
Farange’s poor repuation as a diplomat sparked the #BetterAmbassadorsThanFarage hashtag on Twitter:
2) Farage’s anti-immigrant views bewildered mainstream politicians
Farage is the force behind the Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric that fueled Brexit’s “Leave” campaign. He accused British Muslims of “split loyalties” in the wake of 2015’s Paris terrorist attacks.
A poster by Farage’s campaign was reported to the police for inciting racial hatred, the Guardian reported. The poster shows a picture of Farage standing in front of a line of mostly non-white migrants and non-refugees with the slogan “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all.”
Farage fought back against the poster’s criticisms, stating that it was an “accurate” and “undoctored” photograph following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision last year to grant asylum to 1.5 million refugees, mostly from Syria:
This is a photograph – an accurate, undoctored photograph – taken on 15 October last year following Angela Merkel’s call in the summer and, frankly, if you believe, as I have always believed, that we should open our hearts to genuine refugees, that’s one thing.
But, frankly, as you can see from this picture, most of the people coming are young males and, yes, they may be coming from countries that are not in a very happy state, they may be coming from places that are poorer than us, but the EU has made a fundamental error that risks the security of everybody.
3) Farage abruptly stepped down as head of Ukip in the Brexit aftermath
Farage abruptly stepped down as leader of Ukip after results of the Brexit vote in July 2016.
“During the referendum, I said I wanted my country back … now I want my life back,” Farage said.
The move wasn’t too surprising to those who had followed the populist politician’s career. He’s done it a total of three times since taking over the party in 2010. Farage lead Ukip during the years 2006 to 2009 and came back to the role after the 2010 election. The Guardian reported that Farage was key in converting Ukip from a fringe single-issue party to a major political force. He then stepped down after the 2015 election, only to abruptly “unresign” days later, as he wanted to lead Ukip’s campaign to leave the E.U.
Even though he promised his post-Brexit resignation was his last one, many on Twitter mocked Farage for his inability to make up his mind:
Turns out Farage was wrong. He was forced to step in as acting head of Ukip in October, following the departure its leader due to party in-fighting.
“I’ve done my bit,” Farage told Sky News. “It’s a pretty rotten job being leader of any political party and I think being leader of UKIP is probably more rotten than all the others.”
4) Farage and Trump mirror each other in more ways than one
Both Trump and Farage recall the ’80s, when both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thacher and U.S. President Ronald Reagan were in office, as a type of Golden Age. Supply-side economics and privatization were on the agenda. It was the glory days of Wall Street and London’s Square Mile. Trump came up on the national stage as a prosperous New York City real-estate developer, and Farage was a trader at the London Metal Exchange.
Farage and Trump both came from wealthy families and attended elite schools. Both share a similar blunt style of speaking; Farage once called the E.U. a “serial date rapist” and said in 2014 that any “normal” person should be worried if a Romanian family moved next door. Farage and Trump are both fans of race-baiting and scaremongering tactics to stoke the public’s fears about the effects of mass migration. After hundreds of women at Cologne’s airport were groped and robbed by North African migrants in June, Farage told women in the U.K. that the same could happen to them in their nation if they didn’t pass Brexit.
Financial Times noted in its in-depth profile of Farage, in which he drank six pints of lager, a bottle of wine, and two glasses port, Farage is not a people pleaser and never had to be:
Critics say his appeal is limited to those who are already converted. The thought riles him. “Am I bit of a blokeish bloke? Yes. Should I change my image? This is what they tell me — these people who come in and want jobs. I should feminise.” He’s enjoying himself again. “I mean, for God’s sake. I am what I am.” Fine — but was it really necessary, I ask, to compare the EU to a serial date rapist? “We can’t even tell a joke!” he responds.