The Brexit Party will not run for parliamentary seats currently held by Tory lawmakers, Nigel Farage said, reversing his previous position. The move is a major boost for conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Despite a recent snub from UK Conservatives, Nigel Farage announced his Brexit Party would not field candidates in the 317 seats currently held by the Tories. Farage's party would instead "take the fight to Labour" and other pro-Remain factions.
Farage said his goal was to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote at the upcoming election.
The UK is heading for a parliamentary vote in December, with a total of 650 seats up for grabs. The Tory party, led by Boris Johnson, is pledging to take the UK out of the EU under the terms of the deal negotiated by Johnson last month.Labour says it will renegotiate a different agreement and then hold another referendum that would have the public choose between their deal, and staying in the EU.
Farage, a hardline Brexiteer, had slammed Johnson's deal as "Brexit in name only" and pressured the prime minister to drop it in favor of a no-deal exit. Ten days ago, Farage offered a "non-aggression pact" to the Conservatives, saying the Brexit Party would only run for 150 seats, targeting opposition Labour heartlands where the Conservatives struggle, if Johnson abandoned the deal. He threatened to field 600 candidates if the Conservatives rejected his offer.
The Tory party quickly dismissed Farage's proposal. In the intervening days, Farage came under strong pressure from the pro-Brexit media and voters to go back on his ultimatum and stay out of Conservative-dominated areas.
Anything but a second referendum
On Monday, Jonhson tweeted a video saying he would not prolong Brexit transition period past the end of next year and that he would work towards non-political, free trade future relationship with the EU. Farage then announced a course reversal in the wake of Johnson's comments.
Speaking to his supporters in UK's Hartlepool, Farage said the decision not to run against Tories "prevents a second referendum from happening."
"And that to me, I think right now, is the single most important thing in our country," he added. "In a sense we now have a Leave alliance, it's just that we've done it unilaterally."
Read more: What's new in this Brexit deal?
'Thatcherism on steroids'
Prime Minister Johnson welcomed Farage's move.
"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," the UK leader said. The move is expected to boost his party and facilitate his pledge to leave the EU by January.
In turn, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn slammed Farage's strategy as a "Trump alliance," alluding to calls from US President Donald Trump for Farage and Johnson to join forces.
"This Trump alliance is Thatcherism on steroids" and "must be stopped," Corbyn wrote on Twitter.
Opinion polls put the Conservative party in the lead with some 35% to 40% support. With the British first-past-the-post electoral system, this could be more than enough for winning a parliamentary majority. However, under the leadership of Theresa May in 2017, the Conservatives lost the better part of a 20-point lead in the polls during the campaign phase.
dj/msh (Reuters, dpa, AP)