Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will not stand in the 317 Conservative-held constituencies in the General Election, after previously saying the party would field candidates in 600 seats.
Farage said he would strip back the party’s campaign due to Boris Johnson’s statement yesterday concerning the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU.
Johnson said there would not be close political alignment with Brussels after leaving the EU, and that he would not extend the Brexit transition period past December 2020.
In Johnson’s deal, the UK would leave the EU immediately, but would continue to trade with the bloc on the same terms until the end of a transition period.
The government would have until the end of 2020 to broker a free trade agreement with the EU.
Farage said today: “Last night I saw something for the first time since the Brussels summit that was promising.
“He said we would negotiate a trade deal, a super Canada plus trade deal, with no political alignment – that is a huge change.
“We’ve been aiming at a close and special partnership with the EU, but boris last night did signal a very clear change of direction.
“I thought to myself that sounds a bit more like the Brexit we voted for.”
Farage previously said he would stand in every Great Britain constituency if Johnson did not agree to an alliance, which was promptly rejected.
Johnson welcome the u-turn from the former UKIP leader, saying that a “gridlocked hung parliament is the greatest threat to getting Brexit done”.
He added: “The Conservatives only need to win nine more seats to win a majority and leave by the end of January with a deal.
“We can then finally move on as a country, and focus on the priorities that matter to you and your family.”
However, today’s u-turn may not hugely alter the Tories’ election hopes.
The Brexit Party will still stand candidates in many Labour-held North and North East seats the Conservatives need to win if they are to win a majority.
The Brexit Party did well in these leave-voting Labour areas in this year’s EU elections and continue to perform strongly in recent polls.
Farage believes the Brexit Party has a strong chance to win seats from “remainer parties” in next month’s election.
He added the only way to “keep Boris Johnson to his promises” [on Brexit] was to “win some of these seats”.
“We will also take on the rest of the remainer parties, we will stand up and fight them all,” he said.
“We will expose the fact of Labour’s betrayal of five million of their own voters.
“It is the time for seismic change in many of these constituencies and I think there’s a Labour audience out there waiting for that message.”
Nick Faith, director of political consultancy firm WPI Strategy, said: “There is now a clearer pathway to a Conservative majority but the journey still remains perilous.
“Farage’s decision not to stand candidates in seats won by the Tories in 2017 will boost the latter’s chances of holding those areas.
“It could also help squeeze the Brexit Party in Labour held, leave voting marginal seats, as it becomes even clearer to the public that Boris – and a Conservative majority – is the only possible route to delivering Brexit.”