Britain should not apologise for its colonial past, Nigel Farage has said.
The Brexit Party leader criticised Labour’s plan to hold an investigation into the British empire and its legacy of human rights abuses across the world.
He also claimed that the UK was “not even a military empire”, despite British forces being held blamed for massacres in India and Kenya, among other abuses.
Farage told reporters in Peterborough: “I think if we obsess about the past, different times and different cultures, it can be very difficult to move forwards. So I think some of this stuff is just not helpful.
“I don’t think I should apologise for what people did 300 years ago. It was a different world, a different time.
“You could apply that argument to any civilization, any country and we seem to be terribly keen to apologise for the past and a bit less worried about creating a good future.”
Asked if schools should teach more about British colonial history, Farage suggested other European empires were somehow worse.
He said: “If you want to get into British empires, you can compare the British empire with the Belgian empire, the German empire, you compare it with the Spanish empire, compare it to the Portuguese empire and you’d find by comparison with the others we were not even a military empire, we did it on bribery, that’s how the Brits did it. This stuff doesn’t help.”
HuffPost UK revealed yesterday Labour’s election manifesto, due to be published on Thursday, will include plans to hold a review of the “legacies” of British imperialism.
Britain’s imperial past
Winston Churchill has been criticised for his own role in a famine in 1943, when up to four million people starved in Bengal even as wheat was being exported from India.While in office, Tony Blair expressed regret for the Irish potato famine and for Britain’s role in the slave trade.
David Cameron came close to admitting a colonial legacy but sparked criticism from his own party during a trip to Pakistan in 2011 when he vowed to stay out of the controversy over the disputed region of Kashmir.
Two years later, Cameron took a more traditional approach when he stopped short of formally apologising for the Amritsar massacre in 1919, in which at least 379 innocent Sikh Indians were murdered as British troops opened fire. It wasn’t the “right thing to reach back into history”, Cameron said.
In 2015, on a trip to Jamaica, Cameron refused demands for reparations for the slave trade, pleading with Britain’s “friends” in the country to “move on from this painful legacy”.
Brexit Party Claire Fox MEP also told a crowd of supporters in Peterborough that Labour’s policy was “part of their politically correct identity politics stuff” designed to “make everybody feel guilty for being British and will amount to a lot of woke proposals”.
“I’ll save the Labour Party some time. I’ll tell you something about Britain’s colonies,” she said.
“If you ask a historian you realise those colonies fought behind the banners of national sovereignty and self determination - the very principles that are ignored and sold out by today’s Labour.
“Very important principles that allowed freedom for people around the world. It’s also true that they ignore in the present the colonial expansionism of the EU.”
A YouGov poll in 2016 found that 44 per cent of Britons were proud of their country’s history of colonialism, with 21 per cent regretting it, but those close to leader Jeremy Corbyn say that he is determined to support the move for more transparency.
Farage also said today Prince Andrew should answer FBI questions about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein following his disastrous weekend interview on the issue.
He claimed everyone in the Royal family apart from the Queen was damaging the monarchy’s reputation.
The Brexit Party leader questioned why Prince Andrew gave the BBC Newsnight interview about his friendship with Epstein, and criticised his failure to show any sympathy for the American financiers young victims.
Asked whether the Duke of York had damaged the standing of the Royal family, he replied: “I think they are all trying to do that apart from the Queen really.”
Farage refused to identify other members of the Royal family, but his comments come following widespread criticism of media coverage of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry.
He said: “I think the Queen just becomes this ever more exalted figure and I think the public are beginning to look at those that come afterwards with quite a degree of scepticism at the moment.
“It’s not uncommon, through history we have seen this before.”
Asked if Andrew should travel to the US to answer questions about Epstein, Farage said: “If the FBI ask him to I’m sure he will.
“We’ve all met people in our lives that later on we found out are different from what we thought they were when we first met them.
“We all do that and it was the fact that he didn’t show any regret for that, or almost any sympathy at all for the people that have been trafficked.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.