Brexit Party MEP suggests they should not have stood candidates down

A Brexit Party MEP has said that “with the benefit of hindsight” his party maybe should not have pulled 317 candidates from the General Election.

It has been confirmed that there are 275 Brexit Party candidates running, after leader Nigel Farage initially suggested that his party would target every seat in Britain.

There was growing pressure on Mr Farage in the run-up to the close of nominations on Thursday to stand down Brexit Party candidates in all but a few dozen constituencies to avoid splitting the pro-Leave vote.

He had already said they would not contest the 317 seats which the Conservatives had won in the 2017 election, so it was expected that there would be around 300 candidates running for Mr Farage’s party.

Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has suggested that his party may have made the wrong decision in standing down so many candidates.

“Well I think with the benefit of hindsight maybe we shouldn’t have stood 317 candidates down, with the benefit of hindsight, because the Tories haven’t responded positively to it.

“They haven’t stood down and assured a proper Leave mandate in Parliament,” he told Sophy Ridge on Sky News, adding that he will be surprised is his party does not win “at least five” seats.

Mr Habib said he is “torn” over how to vote in his own constituency of Chelsea and Fulham where there is no Brexit Party candidate, but said he “may” vote for Tory Greg Hands or alternatively spoil his ballot paper.

Meanwhile, the MEP said he thinks staying in the European Union would be better than going ahead with Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement.

He said he sees the Prime Minister’s deal as “much worse” than remaining in the bloc and that Mr Johnson needs to be steered away from his plan.

Mr Habib told Sophy Ridge: “What we really need to do is get the Prime Minister to pivot away from the Withdrawal Agreement.”

He added: “I see the Withdrawal Agreement as much worse than Remain, frankly.”

Mr Habib said under Mr Johnson’s deal Northern Ireland will be left “bereft”.

Asked if it is the official Brexit Party position that remaining in the EU is better than the Prime Minister’s deal, he said: “That may or may not be our position. That’s certainly my view.”

Mr Habib was asked about allegations that Tories have offered jobs and peerages to the Brexit Party in return for them standing down at the election.

Asked if the claims are correct, Mr Habib laughed as he said: “Sadly, no job was ever offered to me.”

He added: “I am aware that a number of my colleagues have been pressed. Ann Widdecombe, for example, was offered some sort of negotiating position with the Tory Party, from Number 10, someone from Number 10 called Ann.

“I know there have been lots of conversations going on, and discussions, and pressure has been brought to bear.”

He said he was unable to say how many people had been pressured.

Asked about the Conservative Party’s denials, and whether his comments amount to him saying the Tories are lying when they deny the claims, Mr Habib said: “I’m saying they’re being economical with the truth for sure. Absolutely. It has been going on. Without a shadow of a doubt.”