A day after the humiliation of pulling out of 317 Tory-held constituencies – to prevent a Final Say referendum, Mr Farage said – he insisted he would still split the pro-Brexit vote in other parts of the country.
“This is almost comical isn’t it – I’ve just gifted the Conservative Party nearly two dozen seats and I did it because I believe in Leave,” he protested.
“Now, if they believed in Leave, what they would do is stand aside in some seats in Labour areas where the Conservative Party have not won for 100 years and will never win.”
Tory Brexiteers are urging Mr Farage to retreat further by pulling out of Labour marginals, warning “all eyes will be on him” if there is another hung parliament that thwarts Brexit.
Most pollsters dismiss his claim that Monday’s U-turn will hand Boris Johnson dozens of seats, but argue the damage to Jeremy Corbyn will be far greater if there is a unified Leave vote in seats Labour is defending.
But a defiant Mr Farage, asked if he would “sacrifice the Brexit Party for Brexit”, told the BBC: “What we now need to do is to get Brexit Party MPs into parliament to hold him [Mr Johnson] to account
“Too often in recent years the Conservatives have made promises and then backtracked on them. That’s our plan – we need to win some of those Labour seats.”
Mr Farage also repeated his claim that he was offered a peerage last Friday – which he rejected – saying it had been dangled by “people very close to No 10”.
The Conservative Party has declined to comment on that claim, and there are suspicions of an agreement between the two parties that led Mr Johnson to restate his hard Brexit stance in a clip on Sunday evening.
Explaining his U-turn to supporters in Hartlepool, Mr Farage cited the prime minister’s insistence he would not extend the transition period – during which the UK will abide by EU rules – beyond December 2020.
He said he was encouraged by a recent commitment to seek a loose, Canada-style deal, with significant divergence from Brussels, in a post-Brexit trade deal.
That amounted to a “huge change” from the kind of trade pact that had been planned under Theresa May, Mr Farage argued.
However, in reality, Mr Johnson had simply been restating his position on both the transition and a future trade deal, which the Brexit Party leader had previously dismissed as not “a real Brexit”.
In the interview, the Brexit Party leader also dismissed suggestions that he quit in Tory seats under pressure from Donald Trump as a “wild conspiracy theory”.
“I haven’t spoken to him since he was on LBC [radio] with me a few weeks ago and he has no influence over my decision at all,” Mr Farage insisted.
“My decision is made, number one, to stop a second referendum – to prevent Liberal Democrats winning seats in the South and the South West – and, number two, because Boris Johnson has indicated we’re now going for a free-trade deal, not political linkage.”
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