Serious Harm: Farage withdraws allegation against charity before hearing

Nigel Farage, the former leader of UKIP, has formally withdrawn a statement that anti-extremism pressure group Hope Not Hate pursues ‘violent and undemocratic means’.

The group launched a crowd-funded libel case with support from over 16,000 donors against Farage following a dispute between the politician and Brendan Cox, widower of Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered by a far-right extremist.

Following the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, Farage said on Twitter: ‘Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.’ Mr Cox responded on Twitter, criticising Farage for ‘blaming politicians for the actions of extremists’.

Farage had accused Hope Not Hate in the past of disrupting his events, and said on LBC radio: ‘Yes, well of course he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.’

The claim for libel brought by the charity against Mr Farage was due to proceed imminently to a hearing of the issue of serious harm at the High Court, when it was resolved by means of a statement from Farage in which he said he was ‘happy to acknowledge that Hope Not Hate does not tolerate or pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour.’

The group said that they were delighted with the victory, but Mr Farage criticised their response, suggesting that it was disingenuous, saying that he had not paid any damages, apologised or given an undertaking; and also drawing attention to an obligation for the group to meet some of his legal costs. A spokesman for the charity said in response that the result meant that it was ‘putting purveyors of fake news on notice’.

The ongoing disagreement between the parties reflects the difficulties that can arise in how to characterise the settlement of libel claims, when there has been no payment of damages by the defendant.