- Nigel Farage said on Monday that he would stand down Brexit Party candidates in all Conservative-held seats.
- Farage said he made the decision in order to prevent a hung Parliament dominated by Remain-supporting MPs.
- However, the party will still stand in the Labour seats the Conservatives need to win a majority, Farage said.
- Farage changed his mind after Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he would not extend the Brexit transition period before the end of next year.
- The prime minister welcomed Farage’s decision.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Brexit Party will not contest any seats held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the general election next month, its leader, Nigel Farage, announced on Monday.
Farage said his party would stand aside in 317 seats across the United Kingdom held by Conservative incumbents to prevent a Parliament dominated by pro-European Union parties.
“If we do field 600 candidates, there will be a hung Parliament,” he said at a speech in Hartlepool, in northeastern England.
“That is by far the most likely outcome, which I think is something that very few people really want,” he added.
Earlier this month, Farage said the Brexit Party would contest every seat across Britain if Johnson did not ditch his withdrawal deal with the EU and form an alliance with the Brexit Party.
However, Johnson has repeatedly ruled out an electoral pact with Farage and is campaigning on a core pledge to “get Brexit done” by securing parliamentary approval for his Brexit deal.
Despite this refusal, Farage said on Monday that he had taken the unilateral decision to step aside in Conservative areas following comments by Johnson that his government would not extend the Brexit transition beyond December 2020.
Farage said that Johnson “said something else that really did matter to me,” a pledge to negotiate a “super Canada-plus trade deal” with the EU “with no political alignment.”
“That actually sounds a bit more like the Brexit that we voted for,” Farage said.
The Brexit Party will, however, challenge the Labour Party and other “Remainer parties” in the rest of the country, Farage said.
The prime minister said in a statement: “We welcome Nigel Farage’s recognition that another gridlocked hung Parliament is the greatest threat to getting Brexit done.”
—Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 11, 2019
The opposition Labour Party accused Johnson of going into an “alliance” with Farage.
“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,” said Ian Lavery, the Labour Party chairman, referring to the National Health Service.
“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.”
Ed Davey, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the announcement “shows the Conservatives and the Brexit party are now one and the same.”
Anti-Brexit campaigners accused Farage of having “bottled it.”
“Farage has bottled it and hung most of his own candidates out to dry,” said Naomi Smith, the “Best for Britain” campaign chief executive.
“But by standing down Brexit Party candidates across the country, it’s now more important than ever that Remainers use their votes wisely.”
Many experts agree that Johnson’s chance of securing a parliamentary majority on December 12 would be damaged if the Brexit Party decided to stand candidates in 600 seats, as Farage had threatened to do.
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This is because Farage’s party would likely secure the support of a significant number of Leave voters who otherwise might have voted for the Conservatives, potentially costing Johnson several seats.
Farage’s announcement on Monday, therefore, is a boost for the prime minister, who is hoping to win a majority in the election.
Johnson has enjoyed a comfortable lead over the Labour Party in opinion polls. However, the UK election has been dubbed the most unpredictable in decades, with many seats likely to change hands.
The Brexit Party also still intends to field candidates in Johnson’s key target seats in Leave-voting areas of England and Wales, Farage said.
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