Nigel Farage was in conversation with Ambassador Charles Shapiro at a packed World Affairs Council of Atlanta breakfast.

Cast as persona non grata to globalists everywhere, Brexit movement architect Nigel Farage sought to paint himself in a different light during a visit to Atlanta this week. 

He didn’t soften the incendiary language or back down from the contrarian views that the World Affairs Council of Atlanta promised would be on display at the breakfast event, but he said portrayals of his views by the media establishment don’t always reflect reality. 

[pullquote]“I’m not an isolationist. I don’t think that Sodom and Gomorrah begin at Calais.”[/pullquote]

“I’m not an isolationist,” said the founder of the U.K. Independence Party and a former member of the very European Parliament he was trying to abolish. “I don’t think that Sodom and Gomorrah begin at Calais,” he said, referring to the French city that lies just across the English Channel

“I love Europe. I think it’s the most fantastic, wonderful, diverse continent, and because I love Europe, I want to destroy the European Union. I want to have a Europe of sovereign, independent nation-states trading together, cooperating together, having reciprocity and dealing with cross-border problems like crime and people-trafficking and all of these things.”

In a moderated discussion on “From Brexit to Trump”, Mr. Farage stuck to his consistent refrain that European experiment was a noble economic concept at its outset that failed because it overreached politically. 

He spoke the day after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the U.K. would invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29, officially kick-starting a two-year period of negotiation of over its exit from the bloc.

When we trigger Article 50, we will have passed the point of no return. Without doubt, after that day we’re going to become an independent, sovereign nation state. Hooray,” Mr. Farage said, to some cheers in the audience.

He painted the EU as a domain of fat-cat elites that aim to preserve their wealth at the expense of national self-determination. At their core, he said, they “actually loathe democracy,” pointing to the fact that the European Council, which adopts laws, isn’t directly elected.

Mr. Farage predicted Donald Trump‘s election as U.S. president after the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU and hailed it as part of a “year of revolution” in which common people on both sides of the Pond reasserted themselves.  

Brexit, he said, was a recognition that the EU, in his view, is beyond reform. Early constitutional talks had given leaders a chance to “come clean” — to admit that in their zeal to create European super-state they created an untenable financial disequilibrium in the euro zone —  but they missed their shot, he said. 

This doomsday prophet of the bloc seemed to believe demise is now inevitable for the EU, but he didn’t predict when and exactly how it might come. 

The French presidential elections, he said, could provide a clue. If National Front leader Marine Le Pen is to pull off an upset, that will be the “beginning of the end.” France plays a key role in the bloc, and Ms. Le Pen has promised a referendum on French membership in the same vein as Brexit. 

“The outcome of the French election is as if not more important than Brexit or the U.S. presidential election, and I saw that because if Ms. Le Pen were to win, that is the end. It’s over. The European project is finished. There is no way back,” Mr. Farage said. 

He added that he was wary about supporting Ms. Le Pen’s National Front, the far-right party founded by her father with a decidedly anti-Semitic bent. But upon getting to know her, he came to believe she is “cut from a very different cloth” and has the sincere interests of her people at heart. 

He portrayed Mr. Trump in a similar light. The billionaire-turned-president “gets the big things right” about migration, taking on special interests and cutting regulation, despite his ill-advised late-night tweet storms. 

Asked by World Affairs Council of Atlanta President Charles Shapiro whether he has advised Mr. Trump about his social-media stance, Mr. Farage laughed.

“You can’t advise a 72-year-old multibillionaire who’s done his own thing for the last 50 years. You’re whistling in the wind if you think that Donald Trump’s going to listen to me or anybody! Look — all of us that wish him well get frustrated by the little things that he gets wrong, but let me tell you something, he gets the big stuff right. He’s got good instincts,” Mr. Farage said, pointing to a “moral courage” in Mr. Trump he said is lacking in most modern leaders. 

“He is going to fight to the end to put that platform into action, and I have not seen a leader in the western world with that degree of determination and honesty since [late U.K. Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher.”

He contrasted what he viewed as Mr. Trump’s logical stance on immigration and border security with that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he said helped touched off a migrant crisis by inviting asylum seekers into Germany. 

To the chagrin of some Germans in the audience, he opined extensively about Ms. Merkel’s “dull” personality and the EU’s formation as a response to German invasions between 1870 and 1940.

The sentiment behind the Elysee Treaty between Germany and France after World War II made sense, but it went too far because critics pinned the war on the existence of nation-states and began a secret campaign to abolish them little by little. That’s what he says he’s fighting against.

“Ultimately the nation-state is the building block that we all across the world identify with; it is the structure to which we pay our taxes, the structure for which we, if necessary, are prepared to fight and make great sacrifices. It is the identity we want our children and grandchildren to have and so the whole European project is based, just like Communism was before it, on a fundamental misunderstanding of who human beings are.”

He noted that European democracies wouldn’t fight each other, and even went so far as to say that Russia’s Vladimir Putin wasn’t a significant threat on par with that imposed by Russia during the Cold War. He seemed more worried about Islamic extremism and said that NATO should be rethought as an alliance among nations with Judeo-Christian values, omitting the mostly Muslim country that many believe is crucial to the security alliance: Turkey.

As for Britain post-EU, Mr. Farage believes the country will be better off economically once unshackled from what he views as a “protectionist customs union.”

He suggested the country poach trade negotiators from free-trading nations like Chile and Singapore as it seeks to work out its global position.  

He also echoed Mr. Trump, saying that free trade must be conducted from a posture of fairness — singling out what he called China’s strategic campaign to put American steel companies out of business.

“Trump is nowhere near as protectionist as some people in business feel,” he said, praising the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation deal that was finalized in Atlanta.

Ultimately, having a pro-business president will unlock more of the U.S. economy’s potential by tackling suffocating taxes and regulation, he said, and it will also tie the U.S. and the U.K. more closely together.

“He actually genuinely cares about men and women who set up their own firms, take risks and do things, and in many ways I expect he’s going to be the best business president since Ronny Reagan, and I really do mean that.”

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...