‘Nigel has to make a decision’: Pressure on Farage amid deep splits in Brexit Party over whether to axe HUNDREDS of election candidates to avoid splitting Eurosceptic vote and handing Jeremy Corbyn victory
- Nigel Farage addressed Brexit Party supporters in an email sent yesterday
- Said party had ‘big challenge on our hands to clear out Remainer Parliament’
- Implication is that party will not field candidates against Tory Eurosceptics
Nigel Farage is struggling to contain deep splits in the Brexit Party today over whether to axe hundreds of election candidates to avoid splitting the Eurosceptic vote.
The MEP had been due to launch the party’s campaign for December 12, but the event was pushed back to tomorrow amid claims he is wavering over whether to ditch the commitment to stand in all 650 seats.
There are rumours that instead the Brexit Party will target resources on perhaps as few as 20 Leave-backing Labour seats in the North, and not stand against Eurosceptic Tories.
Mr Farage refused to be drawn on the situation today. But in an email to supporters last night he hinted at a more focused approach, saying the party face ‘a big challenge’ to ‘clear out the Remainer Parliament and win a majority for Brexit’.
Arron Banks, founder of the Leave.EU campaign – a close confidant of Mr Farage – has been urging him not to split the Eurosceptic vote.
He is understood to have told Tory friends: ‘The Brexit Party is completely split and Nigel has got to make a decision.’
There are also claims in Westminster that the party only has enough funds readily available to mount campaigns in a couple of dozen seats.
A final decision is not expected to be announced until the formal election launch tomorrow, with candidates urged to stay ‘dark’ over their intentions.
In an email to supporters yesterday, Nigel Farage – seen in Brussels on October 22 – said the party would have ‘a big challenge on our hands to clear out the Remainer Parliament and win a majority for Brexit’
However, even targeting Labour Leave seats could deny Mr Johnson a majority – as those are the seats he is hoping to win to offset possible losses to the SNP and Lib Dems.
It came as a major row engulfed the Brexit party over whether or not to stand in hundreds of seats across the country.
Mr Farage previously said that the party would contest every seat, and the party has pulled together more than 600 candidates.
But the party has been split about what to do since the Tories rejected an electoral pact.
The party’s MEP John Longworth has urged it to concentrate its efforts on a smaller number of seats in Brexit and Labour-supporting areas.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launching his election campaign in Battersea today
The Mail revealed yesterday that chairman Richard Tice is receiving begging texts from Brexiteer Tory MPs calling for the Brexit Party to stand aside in their seats.
Mr Banks told the FT today: ‘It’s not as simple as whether the Brexit party should stand down across the whole country… the national polls say one thing, but there is a different dynamic in each seat that has to be considered.
‘If Nigel takes a tactical, pragmatic approach on where to run to help deliver Brexit he’ll be rewarded by voters.’
Prospective Brexit party candidates are still waiting to hear whether they are standing in the vote, expected to be on December 12.
A message to all candidates on Thursday morning said: ‘Important. Please all go DARK on social media. DO NOT respond to any questions about where we [are] standing, what the strategy or plan is from now on. Things will be made clear… very soon,’ according to the FT.
It is even unclear whether Mr Farage himself will stand, despite reports that he will contest the Essex seat of Thurrock.
The party will reveal at a launch event on Friday where it will stand candidates.
Yesterday, arch-Eurosceptic Tory MP Steve Baker said the Conservatives should reject a pact with the Brexit Party.
The chair of the Eurosceptic European Research Group previously urged cooperation with the party, but now says the Tories should fight them.
Mr Baker said that Mr Johnson’s deal means it should form a pact with the Brexit Party, which supports a no-deal exit from the EU, he said.
Yesterday, arch-Eurosceptic Tory MP Steve Baker – seen on October 28 – said the Conservatives should reject a pact with the Brexit Party
‘A pre-Brexit pact with the Brexit Party won’t happen all the time Mr Farage insists the Conservatives pursue no deal, which won’t happen,’ Mr Baker told the New Statesman.
‘Boris will have to win without any arrangement.’
The Tories fear that even that small number could rob Mr Johnson of a majority in the snap general election.
In September, Mr Baker warned that the Tories risked losing power altogether if they attempted to fight a pre-Brexit election without a pact.
‘If we have an election before we have left the European Union and the Brexit Party think that we’re heading in a direction which does not deliver our independence from the EU then they will stand candidates virtually everywhere and the result will be, as per Peterborough and in Wales, they will result in a Lib/Lab Remain coalition. We will lose Brexit,’ he said.
The Prime Minister has always ruled out a pact with Mr Farage, which would be unacceptable to a majority of Conservative MPs.
Mr Johnson’s team described the former Ukip leader as ‘not a fit and proper person’ to govern.
Mr Johnson has managed to unite the Tory party behind his deal, something that always eluded his predecessor.
He also managed to win over the 28 ‘spartan’ members of the ERG who refused to vote for Theresa May’s deal three times.
Without a pact with the Tories, Mr Farage’s party will struggle to make an impact. It is more likely to split the Leave vote should it stand across the country.
Although the Brexit Party is trailing the Conservatives in the polls, Tory MPs fear that Mr Farage’s group could win enough votes to deny them victory in certain seats.
The Eurosceptic party has selected more than 600 candidates to contest every seat in Britain, though not Northern Ireland.
Mr Farage has also suggested that some could stand aside in a deal with the Conservatives to ensure as many seats went to Brexiteers as possible.
His party has repeatedly called for Mr Johnson to agree a non-aggression electoral pact in certain seats and said that they can be the Tories’ best friends or worst enemies.
The Brexit Party has spent weeks campaigning for the UK to leave the EU on October 31, but has kept a relatively low profile since Mr Johnson conceded that he would not meet his deadline.
A Brexit Party spokesman said: ‘We continue to wish to have the broadest collection of clean Brexiters — in line with the result of the 2016 referendum — in parliament as possible to ensure a clean Brexit.’
However, even targeting Labour Leave seats could deny Boris Johnson, seen yesterday, a majority