Nigel Farage tells right-wing US event that ‘religious sectarianism’ is new threat in UK

Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage appeared to forget a large part of British history on Wednesday when he told a gathering of American conservatives that "religious sectarianism" was a new problem in British politics.

Speaking at an "international summit" held on the eve of the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference alongside former British Prime Minister Liz Truss and other right-wing international figures, Mr Farage told attendees that Western nations are facing now a "huge internal problem" that he described as a "new phenomenon".

That phenomenon, which he said was "beginning to dominate British politics," was "religious sectarianism".

Mr Farage was referring to the pro-Palestinian voices protesting outside the House of Commons as Parliament debated the Israel-Gaza war, and he complained about "religious hatred" that "exists against Israel, against the Jewish people" and blamed "successive labour and conservative governments" for having "pursued completely irresponsible immigration policies" and not encouraging integration by Muslim immigrants.

"Now we have radical Islam is becoming mainstream in British politics. We will have by the 2029 general election, we will have a radical Islamic party represented in Westminster and this is why borders, you can't be a proper country, unless you control your borders," he said. "The internal threats of religious divide and sectarianism, that happening to us first, but if you're not very careful ... all of us will face it".

Mr Farage's comments about religious sectarianism appeared to whitewash centuries of British history and leave out important moments such as the 16th century English Reformation, during which Henry VIII broke the Church of England away from the authority of the Catholic Church. The former Brexit Party leader and Ukip MEP also appeared to leave out of his analysis the bloody English Civil War, the beheading of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, all driven by causes including sectarian disputes between Catholics and Protestants.

Former UK prime minister Liz Truss and ex-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at CPAC in Washington DC (AP)
Former UK prime minister Liz Truss and ex-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at CPAC in Washington DC (AP)

He also did not seem to count in his analysis the three decades of The Troubles, during which Catholic Irish Republicans, Protestant Unionists and British troops fought a quasi-guerilla war over the status of Northern Ireland which killed more than 3,500 people, the majority of whom were civilians.

The decades of violence only came to an end with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which established a power-sharing devolved government in Belfast.

Asked if he wanted to clarify his comments, Mr Farage – who has appeared at rallies with Donald Trump – told The Independent that he believed sectarianism was indeed a new phenomenon in Britain.

“We've had it in Northern Ireland, we've seen the baleful effects of it, and it's now coming to England. I've never seen it in my lifetime," he said.