Four MEPs have dramatically quit the Brexit Party and accused Nigel Farage of putting Britain’s exit from the European Union “at risk”.
Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of the Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lance Forman and Lucy Harris, have all resigned the whip to back Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s push to “get Brexit done”.
They were joined at a press conference in Westminster by John Longworth MEP, who was sacked by the party on Wednesday for reportedly having “repeatedly undermined” Mr Farage’s election strategy.
The four spent an hour picking apart Mr Farage’s General Election strategy in front of journalists on Thursday.
Ms Rees-Mogg said the Brexit Party was putting “Brexit itself at risk” by eating into the Conservative vote share in marginal seats.
The former Tory candidate also rejected speculation that her older brother, a Cabinet minister, had influenced her decision, as “disturbingly old-fashioned”.
The East Midlands MEP said: “I have had no approaches from the Conservative Party in any description, and I am frankly finding it really quite disturbingly old fashioned that people are suggesting that my brother gets to tell me what to do with my political views – he doesn’t.
“We have completely independent views from each other and I am only concerned about Brexit.”
Ms Rees-Mogg said the Brexit Party was taking “approximately double the amount” of support from traditional Tory supporters to would-be Labour voters, jeopardising the possibility of a Johnson majority.
“If you look at the very tight margins in so many of the seats with forecast polls, but also the feeling around the country if you talk to people, that is risking Brexit,” she said.
“Those changes in voting patterns, those votes that will not go to the Conservative Party – which is the only party with the chance of winning many seats, that wants to deliver Brexit – that’s risking Brexit entirely.
“I don’t think a Brexit party should be putting Brexit itself at risk.”
All four denied they had been offered honours or any other sweeteners from Mr Johnson or his party as part of their decision to resign the whip.
They have vowed to continue with their jobs in the European Parliament, with Yorkshire and Humber MEP Miss Harris telling journalists each of them would stay put in order to vote for the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Longworth said the PM’s deal with Brussels was “not perfect” but that it was “definitely Brexit”.
The former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, who has previously called for Mr Farage to fight just 20 to 30 key seats to ensure a pro-Brexit majority in the Commons, said it was “crazy” that a whole slew of constituencies were being put “at risk” by his now-former party.
“They have adopted entirely the wrong policy because they have simply focused on withdrawing from Conservative seats,” he said.
“I’ve got a list I drew up myself – West Bromwich East, West Bromwich West, Pontefract and Castleford, Durham North West, Peterborough, Darlington, Derby South, Derby North, Lincoln, Colne Valley, Bolton North East – I would say those seats are all at risk when the Conservatives can win. Crazy.”
Lance Forman, MEP for London, said there was still time for Mr Farage to keep his Eurosceptic reputation intact – by quitting and urging voters to back the Tories.
“He has done an extremely good job getting us to this point,” said the businessman.
“He could be one of the greatest statesman if he stood down and said, ‘I believe we have to get Brexit delivered – vote for Boris Johnson and his deal’.”
In reply, Mr Farage said the Brexit Party had already worked to assist the Tories in securing a majority for exiting the EU.
“Whilst we are disappointed that four of our MEPs don’t seem to understand that we both saved the Conservative Party from large scale losses to the Liberal Democrats in the south and south west of England, but we are also hammering the Labour Leave vote in its traditional heartlands, making it much easier for the Conservatives to win many of those seats,” said Mr Farage.
“The only vote on the Leave side that is currently being split is in areas such as Barnsley, the South Wales Valleys, Doncaster and Hartlepool, where there is a risk that the Tories will split our vote.”