By NIGEL FARAGE FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 00:52, 27 December 2020 | UPDATED: 12:11, 27 December 2020
The war is over. As 2021 dawns, the most dramatic political conflict of our lifetime will draw to a close.
This issue, which has broken prime ministerial careers and divided families, will no longer dominate our lives in the same way.
While the precise terms of our leaving may continue to be finessed for some time, the fact that the anti-EU movement ever got this far is a political miracle.
It was back in 1990, when Britain joined the ill-fated Exchange Rate Mechanism, that I became a Leaver.
It was apparent to me that the European Common Market and Free Trade area, as it was originally known in the spirit of post-war reconciliation, had turned into an undemocratic monster.
As the arch-Europhile Tony Blair later admitted: ‘The rationale for Europe today is not peace; it is power.’
All of Britain’s political parties, business lobbies and most of the media broadly supported our membership of what, from 1993, became the European Union.
Although there were some strong Conservative and Labour voices who spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty, which established this political union, nobody was prepared to sacrifice their career by calling for Britain to leave.
To do so would have been political suicide. Realising this, I made a decision that would define my life for more than a quarter of a century.
I decided to fight for the cause of national independence via a brand new political party called Ukip.
Little did I know the extraordinary price I would have to pay for challenging the status quo.
One person who warned me how tough it would be was Norman Tebbit, with whom we all have sympathy this weekend following the death of his wife, Margaret, who was paralysed by the IRA’s bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984.
I decided to fight for the cause of national independence via a brand new political party called Ukip (pictured: Nigel Farage at the Leave.EU party in London)
Norman told me that I was now an enemy of the state and that people would stop at nothing to prevent me from succeeding.
In the early years, it was hard going. Indeed, I was the only Ukip candidate to save my deposit in the 1997 General Election.
But by then I was committed, bloody-minded, and happy to tour the country relentlessly speaking at public meetings.
To those who knew me, I quickly became the patron saint of lost causes.
Ironically, what gave the movement a boost was the introduction of proportional representation in the European elections of 1999. Three of us became Ukip MEPs that year.
What further changed the political weather even more dramatically was the expansion of the EU in 2004.
Its membership grew to incorporate first eight, and then ten, former communist countries.
It was obvious that if people from relatively poor countries were going to be allowed to move in unlimited numbers to a much richer country, they would do so in droves.
I knew that this was the issue that would alter everything. National democracy and sovereignty are important, but so is the right of everyday people to remain in work, pay the mortgage and do their best for their children.
It was plain that vast numbers of people arriving in Britain unchecked would have a negative impact on wages, housing and public services and would lead to discontent.
That is why I tried to make clear that uncontrolled immigration and Britain’s relationship with the EU were synonymous.
With all of the main parties being in favour of the EU’s enlargement, and the free movement of people that went with it, the path was clear for Ukip’s purple revolution to begin.
Support for the party surged. We won the 2014 European elections. Then two Tory MPs quit their seats to stand in by-elections as Ukip candidates.
They were returned to the Commons. All this led directly to the 2016 referendum. If David Cameron had not agreed to hold the plebiscite, the Conservatives’ national support would have collapsed.
But for us to win a referendum in opposition to every major political party, business group, trade union, media organisation and global leader was never going to be easy.
As a team acting on its own, I think that Ukip, the businessman Arron Banks, and a handful of dependable rebel Labour and Tory MPs could have scored about 43 per cent in the referendum.
That is why it was so crucial that Boris Johnson, who is now finishing the job, opted to join the Leave side.
Johnson’s Vote Leave group, which included Michael Gove, got us over the line.
Yet this was only the beginning of the bitter battle that would follow. Even though the result of that vote was crystal clear, with a majority of more than 1.25 million people backing Brexit, the Establishment spent three-and-a-half years trying to overturn it.
I think that historians will look back on the 2016 to 2019 period in astonishment. Whether it was the BBC, then Commons Speaker John Bercow, or hundreds of backbench MPs, a stubborn refusal to respect the outcome took hold. It was accompanied by a coarseness not seen before in modern politics.
The ensuing stalemate and the extension of the UK’s departure date was unsettling, but it was clear that the public had not changed their minds.
In fact, having seen the arrogant and overbearing nature of Brussels throughout that time, I am sure that in many cases their resolve was strengthened.
When I launched the Brexit Party as a means to re-establish our tattered democracy, the wave of support was immediate. Millions of pounds were donated in small sums online.
The huge victory we scored in the 2019 European election led to Theresa May’s resignation and the premiership of Boris Johnson.
We then had our day of celebration on January 31 this year in Parliament Square. After 47 years, we had left the EU and, no doubt to the relief of the European Parliament, I left Brussels.
The 11 months since then have given rise to more trench warfare as an intransigent EU did its best to keep the UK aligned to its rules.
I am sorry to say that for all the tough talk of Mr Johnson and his chief negotiator, Lord Frost, some major concessions have been made.
Northern Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the UK; the European Human Rights regime will remain in place here; our coastal communities have been saddled with a rotten fishing deal; and EU firms will still be allowed to tender for UK government contracts.
In regulatory terms, the EU will hold a Sword of Damocles over Britain with the threat of immediate tariffs if they judge that Britain is being too competitive.
This is not what I campaigned for and it most certainly is not what Boris Johnson’s supporters voted for in the 2019 General Election.
These handicaps will not allow Britain to transform itself into the Singapore-style entity in a European time zone that it could become.
In 2021, however, I suspect that the debate around the EU will fade as more pressing concerns materialise. Let’s be in no doubt, though. Brexit was and is an epic triumph for the people against the political classes.
It will, I’m sure, prove to be the beginning of the end of the European Union. There is no going back. We won.