LONDON — The head of the U.K. Independence Party, Nigel Farage, resigned Monday as party leader, the latest British political chief to tumble amid the political turmoil following the country’s vote to leave the European Union.
Farage’s departure makes him the third major political figure to announce plans to step aside rather than take ownership of the tumultuous times ahead as Britain navigates its departure following the June 23 referendum. An odd power vacuum has replaced the boisterous predictability of British politics.
“During the referendum campaign, I said I want my country back. What I’m saying today is I want my life back, and it begins right now,” Farage told reporters.
Farage joins Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he will step aside to allow a successor to deal with the negotiation process to extricate Britain from the EU’s single market of some 500 million. The favorite to replace him, prominent “leave” campaigner Boris Johnson, declined to stand for the Conservative leadership. The opposition Labour Party is having its own troubles, with leader Jeremy Corbyn clinging to office despite having lost a confidence vote by his party’s lawmakers.
Farage was instrumental in the campaign to have Britain leave the EU, championing the issue of immigration. A much-criticized campaign poster featuring thousands of migrants massed at the border alongside the words “Breaking Point,” typified fears that fueled some Brits’ decision to vote for a British exit, or Brexit.
“The victory for the ‘leave’ side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved,” Farage said. “I came into this struggle from business because I wanted us to be a self-governing nation, not to become a career politician.”
Farage said he would retain his seat in the European Parliament to see out the negotiations for Britain’s exit from the EU. He defended his taunting of other lawmakers in the chamber last week, arguing he wanted Britain’s voice to be heard.
Meanwhile, other politicians rushed to try to seize the moment and win a chance at power. British Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom launched her bid to lead the Conservative Party, pitching herself as a passionately pro-”leave” candidate who can both unite a divided Britain and strike a good deal with the European Union.
Leadsom is one of the least-known among the five candidates to replace Cameron, but gained attention as one of the strongest voices for a vote to leave the EU. She’s targeting her pitch at Conservatives who think the next prime minister must be someone from the winning side of the referendum.
The Conservative front-runner, Home Secretary Theresa May, was on the losing “remain” side.
Leadsom, who went into politics after a career in financial services, says she would keep the negotiations on an exit deal with the 27 other EU countries as short as possible, because “neither we nor our European friends need prolonged uncertainty.”
And, unlike May, she says EU citizens living in Britain would be guaranteed the right to stay. She says “we must give them certainty. There is no way they will be bargaining chips in our negotiations.”
Earlier, Britain’s Treasury chief announced plans to cut U.K. corporation tax to less than 15 percent to encourage companies to invest and ease business concerns about the country’s vote to leave the EU.
Treasury chief George Osborne says the cut is meant to underscore that Britain is “still open for business,” despite the referendum result. A cut of about 5 percentage points brings Britain in line with Ireland’s 12.5 percent rate.
Osborne told the Financial Times it was time to “make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt.” He is urging the Bank of England to use its powers to avoid “a contraction of credit in the economy.”
Some businesses based in London are considering leaving for other cities like Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Paris to benefit from the large EU common market.
Amid the uncertainty, a prominent law firm says it may go to court to force a vote in Parliament on the referendum. The law firm Mishcon de Reya , acting on behalf of a group of anonymous clients, argues that the referendum was not legally binding and that it is up to Parliament to have their say before the next prime minister invokes Article 50, triggering the start of negotiations for a U.K. departure from EU.
Cameron has insisted that it will be up to the next prime minister to enact Article 50.
Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless contributed to this story.
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