Nigel Farage in major U-turn as he says Brexit Party will not contest Tory-held seats at election
Nigel Farage has announced that the Brexit Party will no longer contest seats held by the Conservatives at next month’s election.
In a screeching U-turn, he said the party will instead targets held by what he described as the "Remainer parties".
Mr Farage had initially said that he would stand candidates in 600 seats unless Boris Johnson dumped the Withdrawal Agreement he struck with Brussels.
His announcement follows weeks of pressure from pro-Brexit figures calling on Mr Farage not to risk splitting the pro-Leave vote at the election.
The decision to stand down candidates in the 317 seats which returned a Tory MP at the last election is a boost for the Prime Minister, although it could make it harder for the Conservatives to gain the seats he needs for a working majority.
Speaking in Hartlepool, Mr Farage said he was reassured by the Prime Minister ruling out an extension to the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020 and pledging a “super Canada-style” trade agreement with the EU.
“Last night I weighed up Boris’s promises, and is he going to stick to them, against the threat particularly in the south and south-west that we let in a lot of Remainer Liberal Democrat MPs,” he said.
“The Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election, but what we will do is concentrate our total effort in all of the seats that are held by the Labour Party who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the ref and we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties.
“We will stand up and we will fight them all.”
The MEP accused Labour of “betraying” five million of its voters who had also opted for Brexit, by vowing to hold a second EU referendum and hit out at the Lib Dems over their policy to revoke Article 50 altogether.
He added: “I have no great love for the Conservative Party at all, but I can see now that by giving Boris half a chance, by keeping him honest, and holding him to account, by getting people in and by stopping the fanatics in the Liberal Democrats who sign us up for everything, united states of Europe, European army…
“They even want to revoke the result of the referendum… I think our action prevents a second referendum from happening and that to me is the single most important thing in our country."
PM 'WELCOMES' FARAGE MOVE
Boris Johnson said of the move: “We welcome Nigel Farage's recognition that another gridlocked hunt Parliament is the greatest threat to getting Brexit done.
“If we have another hung Parliament it would lead to two more chaotic referendums next year. The Conservatives only need 9 more seats to win a majority and leave by the end of January with a deal.
“We can then finally move on as a country, and focus on the priorities that matter to you and your family.”
Labour Party chair Ian Lavery said: “This is a Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson alliance with Donald Trump to sell out our country and send £500 million per week from our NHS to US drugs companies.
“We urge voters to reject this Thatcherite 1980s tribute act, which would lead to more savage Tory attacks on working class communities. Our NHS is not for sale.”
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said: "Nigel Farage standing down shows the Conservatives and the Brexit party are now one and the same.
"Johnson's hard right Brexit takeover of the Tory party has now been endorsed by both Trump and Farage."
Naomi Smith from the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign said: "Farage has bottled it and hung most of his own candidates out to dry.
"But by standing down Brexit Party candidates across the country, it's now more important than ever that Remainers use their votes wisely."
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“The Brexit Party’s declaration that they will not contest any of the 317 seats the Tories won at the last General Election is one for the big moments so far of the election. In theory it does make life easier for Boris Johnson – and we have responded with Star making them 1/20 (95.24%) to win the most seats, and 1/2 (66.67%) for a majority.
"The Tories will find it easier to defend the 60 or so seats that have a majority of less than 5,000 in their favour, but the Brexit Party could still prove to be an issue.
"Standing in Labour held Leave seats means that there could be a split of the Leave vote in seats on the Tory target list that rank as a must win if the Tories are to get a majority.
"This could make life harder for the Lib Dems, who will now only be facing the Tories in many South Western seats which will be on the target lists. Star are 5/6 (54.64%) that they win 40 or more seats in December.””
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