Brexit Party won’t challenge Conservatives in UK vote
In a major shift, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said Monday that his party will not run against Conservative candidates in almost half of the United Kingdom seats available in Britain’s December 12 election to make sure it doesn’t split the pro-Brexit vote.
Farage said the party will not put forward any candidates in the 317 seats that the Conservatives won in the last election, an announcement that should boost the chances that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives win a majority.
Farage said he was putting country before party by unilaterally forming a “leave alliance” with the Conservatives at the expense of parties seeking to slow or stop Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
“If we field 600 candidates, there will be a hung Parliament,” Farage said, adding that an unclear result in the December 12 election could easily lead to a second Brexit referendum that might upend his long-held goal of seeing Britain leave the 28-nation bloc.
Farage has been under huge pressure from Brexit supporters not to run candidates in seats where there is a risk of splitting the Brexit vote and allowing those who want to remain in the EU or hold a new EU membership referendum to seize control.
Monday’s move represents a substantial change in tactics, for only last week Farage had threatened to run against the Conservatives in almost every seat in the nation – 650 seats are up for grabs – unless they agreed to team up with his Brexit Party. He vowed to fight the Conservatives in England, Wales, and Scotland.
Johnson refused the offer, which included a demand that he drop his Brexit divorce deal.
Over the weekend, several right-wing British newspapers urged Farage to change tack, saying there was a risk that Britain might not leave the EU if the opposition Labour Party comes to power.
Glad for recognition
Johnson told reporters while campaigning Monday that he was “glad that there’s a recognition” that only his party can get Brexit done. The prime minister said he had not discussed any deal with Farage, who in turn said he had not been promised anything by the Conservatives.
Labour has vowed to renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal with the EU then hold a new referendum for British voters to decide on whether to leave the bloc on those terms or remain.
Farage said he had been encouraged by recent comments from Johnson ruling out an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020. He said the plan now is “to take the fight to Labour”, which he accused of betraying five million of its supporters who had voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
“The Conservative Party say they want Brexit but have been taking that in a very questionable direction. But overnight, the prime minister signalled a change of direction,” Farage told the AP.