Brexit Party sacks high-profile MEP saying he has tried to 'repeatedly undermine' Nigel Farage

PUBLISHED: 15:10 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 04 December 2019

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with the Brexit party MEPs. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage with the Brexit party MEPs. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The Brexit Party has removed the whip from one of its most high-profile figures and MEPs, accusing him of having 'repeatedly undermined' Nigel Farage's election strategy.

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Brexit Party MEP John Longworth during the EU referendum. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA.Brexit Party MEP John Longworth during the EU referendum. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA.

The chief whip Brian Monteith has confirmed that John Longworth has had the whip removed following perceived criticism of its "Brexit strategy".

Longworth is a former director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce who left the organisation after coming out in favour of leaving the European Union three months before the 2016 referendum.

It is understoodMr Longworth was dissatisfied with the Brexit Party leader Farage's insistence on fielding candidates in Labour marginal seats in a move that could prevent Boris Johnson from securing a Tory majority.

The party leader last month announced he would not contest the 317 seats won by the Tories at the 2017 election but has 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.

The outspoken businessman, who had regularly appeared on television as a representative for the Brexit Party since its inception, had re-tweeted criticism of Farage's targeting of Labour voters as recently as mid-November.

In an interview with the Times in October, Longworth said his fledgling party should be focusing on only 20-30 seats to ensure the Prime Minister had a majority to pass his Withdrawal Agreement.

He told the newspaper: "I can imagine that (a sensible number of seats to target) might be 20 or 30.

"They would be entirely winnable then if you poured all your resources into them."

Brexit Party sources said the message being aired by Longworth was "totally at odds" with the party and "entirely off message".

It is understood that the 61-year-old's alleged siding with the Tories in recent days in Brussels, along with the sniping at Farage's election approach, was what caused Monteith to approach the leadership about withdrawing the whip.

Monteith said: "We regret having to remove the whip, but we have been left with no alternative after John Longworth repeatedly undermined the party's Brexit strategy over the last few months.

"The Brexit Party shall not be deflected from, or undermined in, its campaign to win Labour seats.

"We are receiving a great reception from disenchanted Labour voters and have believe we have a good chance of winning in many seats."

Longworth was one of 29 of Brexit Party candidates to be elected to the European parliament at the May elections as part of Nigel Farage's return to frontline politics.

He has been approached for comment.

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