Nigel Farage ‘bottles it’ as he agrees not to contest 317 seats held by the Tories

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaking at the Best Western Grand Hotel in Hartlepool. Photograph:

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaking at the Best Western Grand Hotel in Hartlepool. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Nigel Farage has said the Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the last general election.

Speaking to supporters in Hartlepool the politician said he had taken the decision because he feared that if they had run it would have led to a hung parliament with significant gains for the Liberal Democrats.

"We've decided ourselves that we absolutely have to put country before party and take the fight to Labour," MrFarage said.

The Brexit Party leader had previously warned the Tories that it would stand in 600 constituencies unless Boris Johnson abandoned his Brexit deal with Brussels.

However, his offer of a "Leave alliance" electoral pact with the Conservatives was rejected by the Tories.

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Farage said he still believed the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Brussels would not deliver "the Brext we voted for" in the 2016 referendum.

However, he said he had been encouraged by statements by Johnson at the weekend saying he would not extend the planned transition period beyond the end of 2020 and that he would seek a "super Canada plus" style free trade agreement with the EU.

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Farage said: "Last night I weighed up Boris' promises, and is he going to stick to them against the threat particularly in the South and the South West that we let in a lot of Remainer Liberal Democrat MPs?

"I think our action, this announcement today, prevents a second referendum from happening.

"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."

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said: "Farage has bottled it and hung most of his own candidates out to dry.

"But by standing down Brexit Party candidates across the country, it's now more important than ever that Remainers use their votes wisely. Our next round of MRP will reflect this Leave pact.

"Our highly sophisticated seat-by-seat level data demonstrates that if just a third of Remainers use Best for Britain's tactical voting tool at this election, Boris Johnson will be prevented from winning a majority.

"Our best chance of stopping a nightmarish government delivering a hard and damaging Brexit is voting tactically."

Labour party chairman Ian Lavery warned of a new "Leave alliance". He said: "This is a Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson alliance with Donald Trump to sell out our country and send £500 million per week from our NHS to US drugs companies.

"We urge voters to reject this Thatcherite 1980s tribute act, which would lead to more savage Tory attacks on working class communities. Our NHS is not for sale."

Green Party election candidate and former leader Caroline Lucas tweeted: "Nigel Farage doesn't need to stand against Conservatives because under Boris Johnson, the Conservatives have morphed into the same narrow sect as Brexit Party.

"This is the alliance Trump wanted. We must resist delivering Trump the result he wants too."

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