London, 12 November 2019 (dpa/MIA) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson received a boost on Monday as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would not contest the 317 parliamentary seats currently held by Johnson’s Conservatives in next month’s general election.
The Brexit Party will instead focus its efforts on many of the 262 seats won by the main opposition Labour party in the 2017 election to the 650-seat parliament, Farage said.
It will also “take on the rest of the remainer parties,” he said, referring to the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and others who want Britain to reverse Brexit and remain part of the European Union.
Johnson welcomed Farage’s pledge, tweeting a Conservative statement saying Farage had recognized that “another gridlocked, hung parliament is the greatest threat to getting Brexit done.”
“The Conservatives only need nine more seats to win a majority and leave [the EU] by the end of January with a deal,” the statement said.
Farage insisted last week that his party would field candidates for some 600 seats in the election, claiming the deal that Johnson agreed with Brussels “is not Brexit and it does not get Brexit done.”
He waged a war of words with Conservative right-wingers, drawing in US President Donald Trump, who urged Farage and Johnson to work together.
“Now that the prime minister has said we will not extend the Brexit transition period beyond 2020, and he will go for a Canada-style free-trade agreement without political alignment, I have decided to put country before party and not oppose Boris Johnson,” Farage said on Monday.
“This ensures that this general election will not result in a hung parliament and second [Brexit] referendum,” he said. “We will target Labour and remainer MPs and get a voice in parliament to make the PM keep his promises.”
Farage came under growing pressure to change his policy, amid fears that the Brexit Party could split the pro-Brexit vote and cause the Conservatives to lose seats under Britain’s constituency-based, winner-takes-all electoral system.
“Brexit Party supporters distrust Boris Johnson’s deal and worry that it will betray any hope of a clean departure from Brussels,” Arron Banks, a friend and financial backer of Farage, wrote in the Daily Mail tabloid newspaper over the weekend.
“We must also face the truth that many of Nigel’s 600 candidates do not stand a hope in hell of winning – only of stealing precious Tory votes,” Banks wrote.
Following Monday’s announcement, Banks said the pact between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party “marks the end of the schism on the right of politics.”
Opinion polls suggest the Conservatives could win 35-40 per cent of votes in the December 12 election, which would be enough for a comfortable majority in parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn, left-wing leader of the main opposition Labour party, said Trump had “told Nigel Farage to make a pact with Boris Johnson.”
“Today, Trump got his wish,” Corbyn tweeted.
Tom Brake, Brexit spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said the pact with Farage “shows the hard-right, hard-Brexit takeover of the Tory party is well and truly complete.”