BERLIN (Reuters) – Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage received a standing ovation at a pre-election rally of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Berlin on Friday, where he was presented as a model of what a right-wing eurosceptic politician can achieve.
Far-right parties have suffered setbacks this year at elections in France and the Netherlands, but the AfD is set to enter Germany’s national parliament for the first time in the Sept. 24 parliamentary vote.
Farage, a leading voice in the victorious movement last year for Britain to leave the European Union, bemoaned the lack of discussion of Brexit in the German campaign.
“(I‘m trying) to get a proper debate going in the biggest, richest and most important, powerful country in Europe about not just the shape of Brexit but perhaps even the shape of the European project to come,” Farage told reporters.
He said Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz had refused to discuss Brexit as it was a “huge embarrassment for the European dream that both of them have had”.
Polls put the AfD, which wants to put an end to euro zone bailouts and call a referendum on Germany’s EU membership, on up to 11 percent support. That could make it the largest opposition party if Merkel wins, as expected, and renews her ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD.
Beatrix von Storch, the AfD’s 46-year-old deputy chairwoman, said her party took hope from Farage, who was a founding member of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party in 1993.
“Nigel Farage showed the impossible is possible if you just believe in it and fight this fight – he did that for more than two decades and that makes him a role model for us,” she said.
Farage said he thought Merkel would probably be better for Brexit as she was more likely to agree to a free trade deal between Britain and the EU, while Schulz, previously president of the European Parliament, was a “pro-EU fanatic”.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan