Nigel Farage today claimed that he had killed the chance of second referendum by standing aside in 317 Conservative seats, saying he had weighed the decision more than anything in his life but decided it was ‘the most important thing for Britain.’
On Monday, the Brexit Party leader had claimed Boris Johnson had offered him a peerage before his climb-down over the general election. He branded the attempted bribe ‘ridiculous.’
It came as Mr Farage partially bowed to massive pressure by declaring that the Brexit Party will not fight any Tory-held seats.
Writing in The Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr Farage declared: ‘I had intended to stand 600 candidates next month. But the difficulty has been working out what the consequences of this would be.
‘Many have said it would allow Jeremy Corbyn to win. I don’t believe that is the case, but I do think it would lead to a hung parliament. This is something very few voters could possibly want.’
While he said that Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal ‘was not Brexit’ he said he had seen a glimmer of hope in the Prime Minister’s olive branch video released on Sunday night.
Mr Farage wrote in his column: ‘Mr Johnson put out a video promising not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020. This represents a direct challenge to Michel Barnier, requiring a change to the political declaration before parliamentary ratification.
PM’s video that broke the Brexit deadlock
The Prime Minister’s last night Twitter video said: ‘We can get the fantastic new free trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020.’
Nigel Farage today said he had been swayed by Boris Johnson’s latest campaign video.
Mr Johnson said in the clip posted last night: ‘I want to stress that (the post-Brexit trade deal) will be a straightforward free trade agreement with no political alignment.
‘There’s no need for that at all. We can have a free trade agreement on the model of a Super Canada Plus arrangement.
‘We can get the fantastic new free trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020. And we will not extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.
‘There’s absolutely no need to do that.’
‘He also said he would negotiate a Super Canada Plus trade deal with no political alignment. This is a huge change. Since Theresa May’s 2017 Florence speech, the UK has pursued the anti-Brexit policy of a close and special partnership with the EU by remaining part of many of its agencies.
‘Mr Johnson has promised something quite different. I have no great love for the Tories, but I can see that by giving Mr Johnson half a chance we will prevent a second referendum.’
Mr Farage said the Brexit Party would focus all its efforts on fighting every Labour seat, adding that Jeremy Corbyn’s party had betrayed five million of its voters.
Mr Farage made his dramatic announcement that he was ‘putting country before party’ and would focus on fighting Labour-held constituencies. But despite the retreat – with 317 Conservative candidates now set to get a free run on December 12 – there is still a real danger that the Brexit Party could prevent Mr Johnson getting an overall majority.
Mr Farage told the Daily Mirror he wanted ‘nothing’ from the Government ‘and I have asked for nothing’.
Pressed on an offer of a peerage in return for not standing against the Conservatives he added: ‘I was offered one last Friday.
‘Ridiculous – the thought they can buy me, a high-paid job; but I’m not interested, I don’t want to know.’
The Tories need to win Labour-held seats to triumph outright in the election. They previously lost there because Leave support was divided.
Mr Johnson welcomed the shift by the Brexit Party as recognition that there was ‘only one way to get Brexit done and that’s to vote for the Conservatives’.
He flatly denied that he had done any kind of backroom deal with Mr Farage.
Leave.EU chief Arron Banks, a close ally of Mr Farage who has backed the PM’s new deal, has been pushing the Brexit Party to target just 40 ‘winnable’ seats.
‘Brilliant decision and we will campaign hard to return Tory & Brexit party MPs,’ Mr Banks tweeted.
The electoral rethink came after a poll suggested the Brexit Party was being squeezed by the Tories’ tough stance. The Deltapoll research found the Conversatives on 41 per cent – while Mr Farage’s operation had plummeted five points to just 6 per cent.
At what was originally billed as a campaign launch, Mr Farage said many of those who had been supporting Mr Johnson’s new deal with the EU were suffering from ‘Brexhaustion’, and he had initially concluded the terms were ‘not Brexit’.
But Mr Farage insisted that he had been swayed by the premier’s pledge in a video message last night that the transition period will not be extended beyond the end of 2020, and the government would strike a ‘Super Canada Plus’ trade deal.
‘That sounds a bit more like the Brexit we voted for,’ Mr Farage said. ‘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 load of Lib Dem Remainers.
‘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 into 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 referendum.
‘And we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties. We will stand up and fight them all. So we are not going to fight 600 seats.’
Mr Farage said in effect he had unilaterally formed a ‘Brexit Alliance’ with the Tories.
‘I think our action today prevents a second referendum from happening,’ he said.
He added: ‘I’ve given him the chance to defend the ones he’s got already. He doesn’t need many more to win a majority.’
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage made the dramatic announcement today at an event in the target seat of Hartlepool to set out his approach to the looming poll
In a speech at the Best Western Grand Hotel, Mr Farage said he was ‘putting country before party’ by standing down candidates in current Tory seats
Mr Johnson was in a cheerful mood on a visit to Wolverhampton today as the bombshell news from Mr Farage broke
Mr Johnson did the traditional campaign trick of kissing a baby as he visited the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton today
The move by Mr Farage came after a Deltapoll survey put the Tories on 41 per cent – and the Brexit Party way back on just six per cent
Brexit Party move could still hurt the Tories in marginal Labour seats and help them stay in the hands of Corbyn
Nigel Farage’s decision to give the Tories a free run only in seats they already hold could still damage Boris Johnson’s chances of winning target seats help by opponents.
The Brexit Party leader announced he will still run candidates in constituencies held by Labour and Remainer parties in a climb-down this morning.
There is speculation the Brexit Party could now focus resources on perhaps as few as 40 Leave-leaning Labour constituencies.
But the move, while helping secure the Tory base vote, may hamper the Tories in seats where they finished a close second in 2017.
There are eight Labour-held seats where they lead by less than one per cent of votes from the Conservatives.
Ranging from Kensington and Canterbury in the south to Barrow-in-Furness and Keightley in the north, a split in the vote between the Tories and the Brexit Party could see them remain in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn rather than helping Boris Johnson get a Commons majority.
The nascent party has already arguably cost the Conservatives two seats this year after they ran in by-elections.
In the Peterborough by-election in June the Brexit Party was the difference between victory and failure.
The seat was taken by Labour’s Lisa Forbes (10,482) with a majority of 683 from the Brexit Party’s Mike Green (9,801), with the Tories in third. But a clear run for the Conservatives’ Paul Bristow (7,243) would have seen him take the seat.
And in August in Brecon and Radnorshire the Tory Chris Davies (12,401) was forced into second place, 1,425 behind the Lib Dems’ Jane Dodds (13,826), after the Brexit Party’s Des Parkinson took 3,331 eurosceptic votes.
Mr Farage said his decision had not been easy after fighting for freedom from the EU for the past 25 years.
‘I think our action, this announcement today, prevents a second referendum from happening,’ he said.
‘And that to me, I think right now, is the single most important thing in our country.
‘So in a sense we now have a Leave alliance, it’s just that we’ve done it unilaterally.
‘We’ve decided ourselves that we absolutely have to put country before party and take the fight to Labour.’
Mr Farage said he still wants to see Brexit Party MPs elected to hold Mr Johnson to account if he wins a majority. He added: ‘It’s not easy, but how do we hold Boris to his promises? That’s the key to this isn’t it? That’s the key to whether this strategy actually works.’
He continued: ‘The way we keep Boris Johnson to his promises is we have to start to win some of these seats. That’s what we need to do in this election.
‘Because when we do that and we have a Brexit Party voice in Parliament, we’re going to keep saying ‘remember, you told us we were leaving by the end of 2020. Remember you told us we’re not going to have political alignment’.
‘And actually he’ll know, just as Mrs May’s vote disappeared in the European elections of this year, the same will happen again if a British prime minister breaks firm commitments.’
Some Brexit Party candidates had already taken matters into their own hands by making way for Tories.
Crawley hopeful Wayne Bayley appeared to be less pleased, with a tweet stating: ‘F*** your election strategy and f*** Boris.’
However, he later insisted his account had been hacked.
Mr Johnson hailed Mr Farage’s ‘recognition that another gridlocked hung 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,’ he wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.
‘The Conservatives only need nine 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.’
Mr Johnson said he had ‘absolutely not’ called Mr Farage to agree a deal.
Jeremy Corbyn accused of plotting ‘uncontrolled immigration’ as part of alliance with SNP
Jeremy Corbyn pictured on a visit to Islington today
Brexit minister Michael Gove launched the stinging attack as Labour’s policy on the key issue descended into turmoil.
Mr Corbyn has repeatedly refused to say whether he will try to restrict free movement from the EU as part of another renegotiation with Brussels if he wins power.
Mr Gove pointed out that activists at Labour conference had voted this autumn to make its official position to ‘maintain and extend free movement rights’.
The Cabinet minister also highlighted the apparent accommodation between Labour and the SNP. Mr Corbyn has made clear he will not block a second Scottish independence referendum – while Ms Sturgeon has said that is her red line for propping up a minority Labour government if the election results in a hung Parliament.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry today insisted Labour favoured ‘managed migration’.
‘If we leave the European Union then what we want to have is fair rules and managed migration. But those people who were here already, we will guarantee that they will be allowed to stay,’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live.
‘I think we’ll need to wait and see what comes out of the manifesto, but I can certainly say that the thinking within the Labour party is that if we’re going to leave the European Union we will have fair rules and managed migration.’
He told broadcasters: ‘I’m glad that there’s a recognition that there’s only one way to get Brexit done and that’s to vote for the Conservatives.’
Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘I would hope that this is the start of the Brexit Party recognising that even standing across the board in (Labour-held) seats will also end up helping those Labour incumbents who are sitting there worrying at the moment about the fact that they have a very, very large Leave vote, and if that is split, then that means they might just sneak through, which could be the difference between us winning a majority and only becoming the majority party and of course winning a majority is critical, if you want to deliver Brexit and Boris to stay.’
One Tory Brexiteer told MailOnline: ‘He has done what some of us had urged him to do. He has always wanted to deliver Brexit and the dilemma he had in the Brexit Party was some people wanted to destroy the Conservative Party and some people wanted to deliver Brexit. He has come down on that side.
‘What Nigel has done is very helpful because if we hold these seats it is very good for us and where in northern seats in Labour areas that might help us too because Labour voters may not vote for us but they may vote for the Brexit Party.
‘I don’t think there will be many, if any, where the Brexit Party can win but they may deliver some of them to us.’
They added: ‘The Brexit Party is more of a pressure group than a party because they don’t have any other issues. We have got what we wanted.’
Another Tory told MailOnline: ‘He is basically trying to extricate himself from a problem of his own making.
‘He had lost control of his party and this was the only way he could emerge with dignity and avoid being humiliated.’
One Conservative defending a marginal seat in the South East said they were breathing a sigh of relief.
They said: ‘Any Conservative candidate who is saying their priority is to get Brexit delivered and get the wheels in motion by Christmas should not be opposed by the Brexit Party.’
Labour and Remainer parties mocked the partial climbdown by Mr Farage.
Labour chairman Ian Lavery said the move was part of a bid to satisfy US President Donald Trump.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘Any form of Brexit that is acceptable to Nigel Farage will be deeply damaging for Scotland.
‘Makes it all the more important to get rid of Boris Johnson’s Tories, escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.’
YouGov’s Political Research Manager Chris Curtis said: ‘Whilst this will help them in the seats they currently hold, the Brexit Party will still be standing in the seats the Conservative Party hopes to gain from Labour in order to gain a majority.
‘The most important swing to look at in the polls is the swing between Labour and the Conservatives. Despite a move away from two party politics since the last election, it is still the case that most marginal seats are Labour / Conservative battles and this is the most important dynamic in deciding who will be celebrating Christmas in 10 Downing Street.
‘On current polling we have seen around a 4 per cent swing from Labour to the Conservatives, which would mean the Tories gaining a large chunk of seats off Labour, potentially in places like Barrow and Furness, Great Grimsby, Workington, Bridgend, Gower, and Stoke-on-Trent Central, whilst Labour will win few, if any, seats from the Conservatives.’
A number of Brexit Party candidates have already decided to quit so that they do not cost the Tories marginal seats.
The latest to do so was Elaine Adams who had been due to stand in the knife-edge constituency of Telford, held by Conservative Brexiteer Lucy Allan.
Announcing her decision not to contest the seat at the pre-Christmas poll Ms Adams said she did not want to ‘allow the Labour Party into power by default’.
She tweeted: ‘I am standing down as the Parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party as I do not want to ‘split the vote’ in Telford, a marginal constituency.
‘We cannot allow the Labour Party into power by default. The Brexit Party and Nigel Farage have done so much to change politics for good.’
Telford was held by the Tories at the general election with a majority of just 720 votes.
The area voted 66 per cent for Leave and 34 per cent for Remain at the EU referendum in 2016 making it a prime target for Mr Farage.
Ms Adams’ decision to stand down comes after Peter Udale, the Brexit Party candidate in the Cotswolds, announced he would make way for the Tories as he threw his weight behind Mr Johnson.
Mr Farage said his decision had not been easy after fighting for freedom from the EU for the past 25 years
Eurosceptics fear that Brexit Party candidates will scupper Mr Johnson’s hopes of winning a majority and hand victory to Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Johnson is pictured attending a remembrance service in Wolverhampton today
Telford hopeful Elaine Adams (left) became the latest Brexit Party candidate to announce she was not standing on December 12. Jeremy Corbyn (right) said Donald Trump had ‘got his wish’ of a pact between Mr Farage and Mr Johnson
Nigel Farage, pictured today, made the announcement an event in Hartlepool this afternoon
Citing Jeremy Corbyn as the biggest ‘threat’, Mr Udale told the Telegraph: ‘I therefore believe it is fundamentally wrong for the Brexit Party, which is strongly patriotic and has a deep allegiance to our union, to stand candidates in constituencies where the Tories have a chance of winning.’
Mr Farage had vowed to stand candidates in every seat across England, Scotland and Wales if Mr Johnson does not agree to a Leave Alliance.
The Brexit Party leader was demanding Mr Johnson ditches his Brexit agreement and campaign for a No Deal split instead.
Brexit Party activists at the event in Hartlepool backed Mr Farage’s announcement, calling him a ‘good strategist’.
Rachel Swann, 48, from Redcar, said: ‘It would be great to see him contesting every seat but this is logical, a lot of people are concerned we are splitting the Leave vote. ‘He is a good strategist, it’s one I can live with.’
Robert Kenny, 64, from Hartlepool, watched the speech and said afterwards: ‘I think he got a bit of a surprise, he might have thought the reaction in the room was going to be against.’
His son Christopher, 39, added: ‘I’m pretty pleased he has done it. ‘We want out and that seems to be the best way of going about it, as long as Boris can keep his word.’
Mr Johnson last night offered his rival an olive branch by using a video on social media to rule out an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond the end of next year.
He also stressed that he would pursue a ‘straightforward free trade deal’ with the EU that was ‘not based on any kind of political alignment’.