Nigel Farage tells German anti-immigrant party AfD: 'Once you are able to speak the unspeakable people will begin to think the unthinkable'

The former Ukip leader was personally invited to speak at the Berlin event by Beatrix von Storch, the granddaughter of Hitler's finance minister

Chloe Farand
Berlin
Friday 08 September 2017 18:53 BST
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Farage: "Once you're able to speak the unspeakable, people will begin to think the unthinkable"

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Nigel Farage has received a standing ovation from supporters of the German far-right Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party, as he whipped up anti-EU sentiment and urged voters to be “bold” in challenging their country’s status quo.

The former Ukip leader injected debate about Brexit into the German election after receiving a personal invitation by the MEP Beatrix von Storch, a leading figure of the anti-immigration party – and the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister, Lutz von Krosigk.

Speaking at the Spandau Citadel in the west of Berlin a fortnight before German voters go to the polls on 24 September, Mr Farage, the MEP for South East England, was greeted with huge applause by the crowd of a few hundred people gathered for the occasion.

He urged AfD supporters to take note of the enthusiasm that made Brexit possible and stand up to their country’s establishment.

Founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, the AfD has seen its popularity grow after it monopolised the anti-refugee sentiment following Ms Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, which has allowed more than a million refugees and migrants to come to Germany in the last two years. Yet the event showed Ms Von Storch was keen to return the debate to the party’s Eurosceptic roots.

The AfD is expected to win its first parliamentary seats in the Bundestag (the German parliament) in the upcoming election, and could possibly become the third biggest political force in Germany.

“Once you have the opportunity, once you have the space to challenge the establishment, to challenge the status quo, you have the opportunity to make the country think and that is an opportunity but also a responsibility,” Mr Farage told Ms Von Storch and her AfD supporters.

“Once you are able to speak the unspeakable, people will begin to think the unthinkable and that is how you beat the establishment.”

Speaking to reporters, Ms Von Storch, hailed Mr Farage as “a role model” and “the man who made the impossible possible” in reference to Brexit the vote.

Elected as an MEP in 2014, Ms Von Storch joined the right-wing group Europe for Freedom and Democracy (chaired by Mr Farage) in April last year, after being expelled from the more mainstream European Conservatives and Reformists Group for saying border guards should shoot at women and children trying to cross the border illegally. She later tried to amend her comments saying the use of firearms against children was “rightly, not allowed”.

Mr Farage praised Germany as being the “strongest and most powerful” country in the EU, before adding it also had “generous taxpayers” making the biggest contribution to the EU budget.

Capitalising on his audience’s Eurosceptic sentiments, Mr Farage said he was “amazed” Brexit had not been an issue in the German election debate.

“It doesn’t matter if you think Brexit is a good thing or a bad thing; it is the biggest challenge the EU has ever faced,” he said.

Mr Farage warned far-right voters that if a tariff-free trade deal was not agreed between the EU and the UK, it would be “pretty serious for Germany too”, adding that Germany has sold at least £30bn worth of goods to the UK per year.

“Trade is a two way street. If it [Brussels] denies a good deal to the UK, it is denying a deal to the German workers.

“It is in our common interest if Brexit is being negotiated successfully.”

Nigel Farage says May can't be trusted over Brexit negotiations

Mr Farage said the motion behind Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US “is still rolling”, and he urged the German voters to be “bold” in challenging the status quo in their own country.

Mr Farage also slammed conservative candidate Angela Merkel and her centre-left rival Martin Schulz for refusing to discuss Brexit, because it was “a huge embarrassment to the European political dream”.

He described Mr Schulz, leader of the centre-left SPD, as “a fanatic” for his belief in a strong EU, and added Ms Merkel would be more likely to be receptive to the business case for a tariff-free trade deal between the UK and the EU.

“With two weeks to go, I would urge Beatrix [von Storch] and others to challenge these people and make of Brexit a debate that matters. You have an opportunity to do well out of this, and you also have an opportunity to do something better and greater for the people of Germany,” he said.

The AfD has been a strong critic of the eurozone and the bailouts which were paid out to Greece. It wants a referendum on leaving the eurozone, and a separate referendum on leaving the European Union unless the bloc returns to the “loose federation” it was when West Germany helped found it in 1957.

Outside the citadel, dozens of anti-AfD protesters had gathered to oppose Mr Farage’s visit. Morag Grant, a British citizen originally from Glasgow, was holding a placard saying “British Berliner against Brexit”.

The 44-year-old, who has been living in Berlin for 20 years, was unable to vote in last year’s Brexit referendum because she had been an expat in Europe for more than the 15 years threshold.

Ms Grant told The Independent Mr Farage was “simply seeking attention”.

“It shows that his whole agenda about a claim to British sovereignty is actually about promoting far-right movements and fascist ideology across Europe.

“Farage is very good at hiding his own agenda, but he is coming at the heart of Berlin to fuel divisions.”

Jenny Hackney, 40, who left Manchester for Berlin 16 years ago, said Mr Farage aimed to create “a right-wing avalanche across Europe”.

The AfD’s popularity has taken a hit in recent months after reaching the mid-teens in opinion polls last year.

Yet polls have shown the AfD fluctuating between eight and 11 per cent of voting intentions, and the party is expected to enter the Bundestag for the first time in September, after missing out on reaching the national five per cent threshold in the last election.

In a poll on Thursday, pollster Infratest dimap found voting intentions for the AfD reached 11 per cent, with many German voters who had not yet made up their minds.

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