The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

New pro-Brexit ad gets linked to Nazi-era propaganda

UKIP leader Nigel Farage at the launch of an anti-E.U. poster campaign in London. (Facundo Arrizabalaga/European Pressphoto Agency)

Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party and champion of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, unveiled a new poster before the media in London on Thursday. It features an image of migrants and refugees filing along in a column and the words "Breaking Point."

In tweets and at a news conference, Farage said the existing plan to divide up the numbers of asylum seekers among countries in the European Union is unacceptable. Voters in Britain will decide in a referendum next week whether their nation will leave the European Union. A Brexit, as Britain's potential departure has been called, could have seismic consequences for the future of Europe and even the global economy.

Farage, whose party has been at the forefront of the "Leave" campaign, was scare-mongering in front of a photograph taken in October of migrants being moved to a refugee camp along the border between Slovenia and Croatia. Britain, unlike much of Western Europe, has its own border controls and hasn't had to cope with such an influx.

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The controversial politician, moreover, was perhaps unaware of the resonance of his political messaging. On Twitter, some compared Farage's ad to images from actual Nazi propaganda that demonized Jews and other minorities in the aftermath of World War I.

Critics claimed that the poster was a sign of UKIP's and the pro-Brexit crowd's latent bigotry and racism. Guardian journalist Jonathan Jones likened Farage's stunt to the infamous 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech delivered by Enoch Powell, a conservative politician who inveighed against immigration.

"I don’t think this UKIP poster creators would be insulted by the Enoch Powell comparison," Jones writes. "But look behind these faces, into the minds of the people who created the poster, and you will find those who assume we all share their unease with racial diversity. Do the great and generous British people that fought against the Nazi creed of race hate really want to give such types their day of triumph?"

Farage defended himself, saying the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Europe pose a security threat. "When ISIS say they will use the migrant crisis to flood the continent with their jihadi terrorists, they probably mean it," he said, using another term for the extremist Islamic State group.

This is only the latest stunt from Farage ahead of the referendum. The previous day, he led a pro-Brexit flotilla up the Thames, only to be met by a rival fleet mobilized by the "Remain" camp. Similarly, after Farage's controversial poster was unveiled on a truck, an opposition van followed bearing its own anti-Brexit message: "Don't wake up with Nigel next Friday."

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