To rapturous applause, outgoing leader Nigel Farage took the stage on Friday morning to make his final speech as outgoing party leader.
“We did it!” – more applause.
He said it had been a very long journey indeed, starting with the belief that we should govern our own country as a matter of principle.
He gave a history of the party from the change, in 1999, to Proportional Representation in the EU election. “Suddenly, in 2013, the British public realised we had something to say about the need for sensible immigration into this country,” he said. “Nobody else had touched the subject because they were committed to the EU.”
UKIP won the EU elections in 2014 – the first party since 1906 which was neither Tory or Labour to win such an election. “Without UKIP there would have been no referendum,” he said, “and without you there would be no UKIP. Together we have changed the course of British political history. Four years ago I predicted UKIP would cause an earthquake in British politics – and we have!”
He spoke of the “great political battle ahead”. “The temptation of the Prime Minister is to go for a soft Brexit rather than a hard Brexit,” he said. “UKIP needs to be strong to ensure 17.4 million people get what they voted for.”
He wished the new leader the best of luck and added that although he is resigning from the leadersip, he would be prepared to offer them advice. “I still stand four square behind this party and its aims,” he added.
He said that if Brexit is watered down, there would be a fantastic potential for picking up votes from disenfranchised Labour and Conservative voters.
Nigel listed three things that he said need to be accomplished as part of Brexit: Firstly the return of our territorial waters, secondly to be outside the single market and free to trade with whoever we liked and finally to reintroduce our blue passports. “I have a feeling they won’t deliver all that so UKIP will have to fight for it,” he said.
“I have put all of me into this job,” he added. “It has been my life’s work, but now I’ve done my bit. I will support the new leader, I will stay as an MEP and make my constructive contributions in the European Parliament” – gales of laughter from the floor – “and in the autumn I intend to travel around Europe helping other independence groups.
“Now I want my life back.” He was cheered to the rafters,