Four Brexit Party MEPs defect urging supporters to back Tories
5 December 2019, 10:14 | Updated: 5 December 2019, 12:06
With the General Election a week away the Tories have received a boost as four MEPs are set to quit the Brexit Party and urge supporters to back Boris Johnson.
The move comes amid fears Nigel Farage's party could split the leave vote and prevent Mr Johnson gaining the majority in Parliament he would need to take the UK out of the EU.
The four wrote a joint letter to the Brexit Party Leader, notifying him of their resignation of the party whip on Thursday.
"We joined Nigel Farage, one of the greatest campaigners of our time, and our success in the European elections with the Brexit Party changed the course of history for good," a video featuring the four former Brexit Party MEPs said.
John Longworth, addressed a press conference in London alongside Annunziata Rees-Mogg.
Lance Forman and Lucy Harris are also set to resign, although all four will continue to sit as independent MEPs.
Annunziata Rees-Mogg said: “We need a strong Leave-supporting government to deliver the Brexit 17.4m voted for. The Conservatives are the only option for Brexit supporters and democrats alike.”
While John Longworth said Boris Johnson's deal was the only option available to secure Brexit.
Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips tweeted to departing colleague Lucy Harris: "Sorry to see you go, Lucy... but I hope you'll do the decent thing and resign as an MEP if you can no longer back the party whose millions of supporters helped to get you elected."
Nigel Farage said he was" disappointed" that four of his MEPs abandoned the party, claiming to have "saved the Conservative party from large scale losses to the Liberal Democrats in the South and South West of England."
Mr Farage added they were "hammering the Labour Leave vote in its traditional heartlands making it much easier for the Conservatives to win many of those seats."
He said: "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."
A spokesman added: "We also note that one of the MEPs is the sister of a Cabinet Minister, another has a partner who works in the office of the same Cabinet Minister and yet another is a personal friend of both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
"In the case of John Longworth, who was for years the firmest advocate of WTO withdrawal that we have ever met, he underwent a metamorphosis into being a supporter of the new EU treaty following two days of meetings in London. We hope that Mr Longworth is well rewarded for his actions," a Brexit Party spokesperson said.
A Brexit Party insider told the Sun newspaper: “We can’t support a party that jeopardises Brexit.
“Too many people are concerned about their own egos rather that they cause we have all been campaigning for – to leave the EU.
“It has become increasingly clear that unless the Tories win next week, Brexit is doomed. But some of our team are so wrapped up in their own self-interest they can’t see that.”
On Wednesday the party confirmed the whip was removed from Mr Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce.
The party's chief whip and MEP Brian Monteith accused Mr Longworth of having "undermined" Nigel Farage's General Election strategy.
"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," Mr Monteith said in a statement.
"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."