Nigel Farage dramatically revealed he will not stand in the general election and declared war on the Tories. The Brexit Party leader said he wanted to be free to travel the country campaigning instead of being locked into a constituency battle.
Mr Farage, who has lost seven attempts to win a Westminster seat, had previously hinted he would stand again.
But he said yesterday that he had thought “very hard” about how best to serve the Brexit cause.
“Do I find a seat to try get myself into parliament or do I serve the cause better traversing the length and breadth of the United Kingdom supporting 600 candidates, and I’ve decided the latter course is the right one,” he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.
“It’s very difficult to do both. It’s very difficult to be in a constituency every day and at the same time be out across the United Kingdom.”
Mr Farage, who had demanded a no-deal Brexit in return for an electoral pact with the Conservatives, said he still hoped an agreement could be reached between the parties.
But he claimed the UK will “never achieve independence” if Mr Johnson’s deal is ratified.
He said: “It doesn’t work at any level. It is a gigantic con. We should not sell out to
this, it’s a remainer’s Brexit. It’s virtually worse than staying where we are, and if we go through this route we will finish up rejoining,” he said.
Mr Farage said the deal was “not Brexit”.
“I promise you one thing: if Boris was going for a genuine Brexit, then we wouldn’t need to fight him in this election.”
A YouGov poll found The Brexit Party’s rating had dropped from 13 per cent to just seven.
Mr Farage, who insisted he does not “want to be in politics for the rest of my life” said the party would field candidates across every seat in England, Scotland and Wales.
He said: “I’ve wanted for months for there to be a Leave alliance. It seems obvious to me that no one party can own Brexit voters – there are Tory Brexit voters, there are Brexit Party Brexit voters and a lot of Labour Brexit voters.
“I always thought that to win an election, get a big majority so we can get a proper Brexit, a coming-together would be the objective.”
Mr Farage’s decision not to pull his party aside in marginal seats in Leave areas or where the incumbent MP is a committed Brexiter has fuelled fears the Eurosceptic vote will be split.
Arron Banks, who worked closely with Mr Farage during the EU referendum and was a major Ukip donor during his leadership, said the Brexit Party leader was giving Remainers a boost.
“He is being very dog in the manger about it. Like everything in life, what is the point of doing something if you can’t win?” he told a Sunday newspaper.
“I don’t think he will go through with his threat, but if he does, it is the wrong thing to do. He risks splitting the vote in some seats and letting a Lib Dem through the middle to win – a party which wants to cancel Brexit altogether.”
He added: “If Boris wins a decent majority, he will be in a position of strength to negotiate a good trade deal with the EU. I think Nigel is just playing the deck of cards he has in his hand because he wants to take part in the television debates. But I’m on the naughty step with Nigel. He knows I disagree with him on this.”
Mr Johnson has ruled out an electoral pact with the Brexit Party and warned voters that backing Mr Farage amounts to a vote for Jeremy Corbyn.
Treasury Minister Rishi Sunak, a Brexiteer, said Leave voters wanted an end to free movement and massive payments to Brussels as well as control over laws to return to Westminster.
“These are all things the Prime Minister’s deal deliver,” he said.
“What I would say to Nigel Farage is, sometimes in politics, as in life, you’ve got to take yes for an answer.”
Mr Farage claimed at the weekend that he had been offered a peerage by the Tories “a couple of months ago” in the hope that his party would only fight a few seats.
Some 600 Brexit Party candidates are expected to head to Westminster today for a Brexit Party event.
Mr Farage has said he is open to standing down candidates in constituencies where existing MPs are “prepared to renounce” the withdrawal agreement and he would treat them “as our friends and not as our enemies”.
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said: “Nigel Farage has already admitted that a vote for the Brexit Party risks letting Corbyn in through the backdoor creating another gridlocked hung Parliament that doesn’t work.
“Scores of his supporters have already called for him to back Boris’ great new deal as, just like us, they want to get Brexit done and let the country move on.”