Brexit Party MEPs quit to back Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy

Nigel Farage has said it did not "surprise him at all" that three Brexit Party MEPs resigned the party to join the Conservative.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg - sister of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg - Lance Forman and Lucy Harris all resigned from the Brexit Party, launching a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

They resigned the whip and urged voters to back the Conservatives to "get Brexit done."

Mr Farage told ITV News: "I'm never disappointed by human behaviour, I'm big enough and ugly enough to see stupidity and greed, I've seen it many times before.

"I'm not surprised at all...I've seen this coming a long, long way off. I've witnessed from Number 10 the attempts to either intimidate people or to buy people off.

"I'm not suggested in the case of three of the people we are talking about that offers have been made, but we all know they'd be ringing up offering jobs, peerages, it just shows you how corrupt politics is and why the whole thing needs changing."

Mr Farage also said if he had not stood down candidates in the General Election "there would be no chance of a Conservative majority."

He said the Tories "have been lulled into thinking" the Brexit Party would split the vote.

"The reality is the vote is being split but in Doncaster, in Barnsley, in Hartlepool, places where we're the challengers to Labour, where the Conservatives can split our vote," he said.

"There is actually no arithmetical logic behind what they are saying."

Mr Farage announced his party would not challenge the 317 Tory-held seats in the upcoming election.

It comes after Brexit Party MEP John Longworth was sacked by the party for “repeatedly undermining” leader Nigel Farage’s election strategy.

Ms Rees-Mogg, MEP for East Midlands and a former Conservative candidate, told reporters: "I find it absolutely unbelievable, but tragic, that the Brexit Party, with so many wonderful people, dedicated to a cause, are now the very party risking Brexit.

"I only stood in May to fight Brexit. I am still determined to do so. If you, like me, support democracy, support our sovereignty, and support Brexit, then please, like me, use your vote to support the Conservatives and get us out of the EU."

“We need a strong Leave-supporting government to deliver the Brexit 17.4 million voted for.

“The Conservatives are the only option for Brexit supporters and democrats alike.”

Annunziata Rees-Mogg - sister of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg - is among the resignations. Credit: PA

Mr Longworth, who left his role at the British Chambers of Commerce in 2016 after coming out in favour of leaving the European Union three months before the EU referendum, had been critical of Mr Farage’s decision to stand Brexit Party candidates in Labour marginals.

While Mr Farage opted last month not to contest the 317 seats won by the Tories at the 2017 election, he pushed ahead with attempts to win Labour heartlands in the North and Midlands of England where there was a strong Leave turnout at the referendum.

It was this strategy that former Brexit Party MEP Lance Forman gave for resigning from the party.

He said the party's decision to stand down in seats won by the Tories at the 2017 election was correct, but one which did not go far enough, calling for the Brexit Party to stand aside in Tory target seats.

Mr Forman said: "Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that the Brexit Party's strategy is misguided. It jeoparises the chance to become an independent country at the very moment victory is in sight.

"If Boris Johnson's deal is good enough to stand down 317 candidates and not fight the Tories in their existing seats, why on earth are we competing with them elsewhere?"

He added: "I think I speak on behalf of my colleagues... My decision is nothing personal towards Nigel Farage.

"It is largely due to his vision and persisitance that becoming an independent country has moved over the past 20 years from being a fringe issue to being mainstream government policy."

Meanwhile Mr Longworth has been outspoken in the media, arguing the party should be targeting between just 20 and 30 seats.

Speaking before a press conference in Westminster on Thursday, Mr Longworth said: “For those who want Brexit, Boris Johnson’s deal is the only option available. Labour does not have a plan.”

Miss Harris, representing Yorkshire and the Humber, and Lance Forman, MEP for London, also urged voters to back the Tories.

Prior to their press conference, the four MEPs shared a video of themselves explaining why they had resigned from the Brexit Party, and why voters should support the Conservatives.

In reply, Mr Farage said the Brexit Party had already worked to assist the Tories in securing a majority for exiting the EU.

“Whilst we are disappointed that four of our MEPs don’t seem to understand that we both saved the Conservative party from large scale losses to the Liberal Democrats in the south and south-west of England, but we are also hammering the Labour Leave vote in its traditional heartlands, making it much easier for the Conservatives to win many of those seats,” said Mr Farage.

"The only vote on the Leave side that is currently being split is in areas such as Barnsley, the South Wales Valleys, Doncaster and Hartlepool, where there is a risk that the Tories will split our vote.”

A party spokesman added: “We also note that one of the MEPs is the sister of a Cabinet minister, another has a partner who works in the office of the same Cabinet minister, and yet another is a personal friend of both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

“In the case of John Longworth, who was for years the firmest advocate of WTO withdrawal that we have ever met, he underwent a metamorphosis into being a supporter of the new EU treaty following two days of meetings in London.

“We hope that Mr Longworth is well rewarded for his actions.”