Nigel Farage reveals the Brexit Party will not contest 317 Conservative-held seats – full text of his speech

Nigel Farage reveals the Brexit Party will not contest 317 Conservative-held seats – full text of his speech

Below is the full text of the speech delivered earlier today by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in Hartlepool. You can watch a video of it here or at the bottom of the speech where it is embedded.

Good morning, everybody. I think think this has been quite a long-anticipated speech from what I can gather; acres of speculation about what our general election strategy is going to be. Well, in the next few minutes, all will be revealed.

We are three and a half years on from that referendum when we all thought we’d done it, didn’t we? We all thought we’d beaten the establishment and we were about to become an independent country.

Three and a half years of delay; three and a half years of a Remain Parliament; a total sellout of Brexit from Mrs May and from the Labour Party a complete betrayal of five million of their own voters who voted Leave in that referendum, and they promised they would respect that vote.

And so I suppose in some ways, it was no surprise that when a new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – one with, shall we say, slightly more optimism and energy than his predecessor? – when he went along to that European summit and the backstop was removed, he cried victory. And I think, exhausted Brexiteers – Brexhaustion I think is the phrase – said ‘well, if we’ve got a good deal, isn’t that just fantastic?’

I have to say, I was very, very unhappy with this new EU Treaty with the attached Political Declaration. And I noticed in the days that followed on that unlike many of those who voted for it – and unlike many of those who praised it, and are still today praising it – I actually read it. And I drew the conclusion that it simply wasn’t Brexit. There were many, many concerns. I think the separate status for Northern Ireland and what that might mean for the Scottish debate in years to come and for the Union was part of it. I didn’t like the binding commitments for state aid rules, which meant we couldn’t, for example, take a strategic decision about an industry like steel. I certainly, having read the text on fishing, realised that it was not going to deliver 200 miles of the North Sea here in the North East of England.

So there were many criticisms that I had of it. But there were two aspects of it that really did stand out for me as being completely unacceptable. The first was that it just did not get Brexit done. It’s a very tempting phrase isn’t it? ‘We’re going to get Brexit done.’ I mean, who wouldn’t on the Brexit side of the argument and indeed many on the Remain side of the argument, who wouldn’t cheer this coming to a conclusion as quickly as possible? But actually, all these documents do is take us into another set of agonising negotiations and ones in which there is no question the EU will have the upper hand.

Monsieur Barnier, who of course negotiated for the EU in the last three years, who did such a good job – he’s now being recruited by the European Union to do the next phase. Well, we should poach him really because he’s rather better than our people have been, and he’s already said that the trade negotiation will last for three years or more. So it doesn’t, as it stands, get Brexit done.

But the area that really worried me the most was the extent to which we were committing ourselves to regulatory and political alignment. We were binding ourselves in an international treaty to having parallel laws on everything from financial services to fisheries, even taxation. We would not be completely free to set our own rates of VAT or indeed corporation tax. And I said to myself when I looked at that, this really is not Brexit, this is not taking back control; this is not the ability at general elections to choose governments that decide what course of action, what policy areas we choose.

And that’s why the national nominating officer for the Brexit Party last week signed 600 candidate forms, because I felt that in a democracy everybody deserved to have a genuine choice.

But the difficulty with that is weighing up what would the consequences be in this election of us fielding that number of candidates. And this has not been easy. Everybody speculated that it would allow Corbyn to win. I don’t believe that. But what I do understand fully is that if we do field 600 candidates, there will be a hung parliament: I think that is by far the most likely outcome, which I think is something that very few people really want.

I also realised over the last few weeks – and we saw this through our own private polling – that if we did put up candidates, I had absolutely no doubt that from South West London, down into Hampshire, and right out through the Western corridor all the way to Land’s End, that the effect of our standing would be quite a large number of Liberal Democrat gains.

So the real concern about that is: what would happen if the Remainer parties could get between them 325 seats in Parliament? Well, we know what would happen. There’d be a second referendum. And so that has been a very real concern for me and I think if there was a second referendum, it would be disastrous for trust in our entire democratic system, disastrous for business, for investment into our country. And also I know that what we’d get offered is a false choice between Remain or a form of Remain.

So after 25 years of battling for us to be free of the European Union, 25 years of wanting us and believing that we should be an independent country, it’s not been very easy. I’ve tried over the course of the last few months, as you know, to build a Leave Alliance. And I knew that between us, the Conservatives and some leading Labour figures that that could have been done. I genuinely tried for months to put about the idea that putting country before party at a moment like this is the right thing to do. But that effectively has come to naught.

So it’s been very, very difficult, and 0ne or two have noticed my silence over the last few days. It’s been a difficult decision to make, but I have to say that last night, for the first time I saw something since that Brussels summit that actually was optimistic; because I saw Boris Johnson on a video saying ‘We will not extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020’. And that, in many ways, a direct challenge to Mr Barnier that would need a change to the Political Declaration before all of this gets ratified in Parliament.

Now you may well say to me, isn’t this the same Boris Johnson who said he’d die in a ditch rather than extend from the 31st October? And yes, the issue of trust, the issue of delivery is a very real one and I’ll come back to that perhaps in a few moments’ time. But at least it was a clear, unequivocal statement from him, that we’re not going on beyond the end of 2020.

But much more significantly – and really quite unreported on so far today – he said something else that really did matter to me, hugely. He said we would negotiate a trade deal, a SuperCanada+ trade deal with no political alignment. Now, that is a huge change because ever since Mrs May’s abject speech in Florence, we’ve been aiming at a close and special partnership with the European Union. We’ve been aiming actually to stay part of many of its agencies and Boris last night did signal a very clear change of direction.

And I thought to myself overnight, well that actually sounds a bit more like the Brexit that we voted for: trade, cooperation, reciprocity with our European neighbours is what we all want. We all want to get on well with our next-door neighbours. What we don’t want is to be part of their political institutions and if the Prime Minister is saying he will make sure we are not part of political alignment, that, I think, is a significant step in the right direction.

So, last night, I weighed up Boris’s promises and is he going to stick to them against the threat, particularly in the South and the South West, that we let in a lot of Remainer Liberal Democrat MPs. So the reason I was quiet is I waited until last night to decide. And I will tell you now exactly what we are going to do.

The Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election. But what we will do is concentrate our total effort into all of the seats that are held by the Labour Party, who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the referendum. And we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties; we will stand up, and we will fight them all. So we’re not going to fight 600 seats. [Applause]

I have to say, I’m pleased you like it. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. But how do we hold Boris to his promises? That’s the key to this, isn’t it? That’s the key to whether this strategy actually works. We will expose the fact of Labour’s complete betrayal of 5 million of their own voters. I think, that’s a very, very important thing for us to do.

I think it is also fair to say that the London-dominated Labour Party is now thousands of miles away from its traditional safe seats, many that it’s held since 1918. And that it actually 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, waiting to think there is somebody who’s actually on their side, waiting to find a party that believes genuinely in investing in the regions, waiting for a party that says we actually need in our country to have sensible immigration controls and not an open door to everybody.

These I think are the messages that will resonate hard in these Labour areas and you can absolutely rest assured that the people we’re putting up for the Brexit Party to stand in all of these seats are genuine and true. They’re doing it not because they want a career in politics, they’re doing it because they genuinely want to make a difference to our country.

And the way that we keep Boris Johnson to his promises, is we have to start to win some of these seats, that’s what we need to do in this election. Because when we do that, we have a Brexit Party voice in Parliament. We’re going to keep saying: remember you told us we were leaving by the end of 2020; remember you told us we’re not going to have political alignment. And actually, he’ll know, just as Mrs May’s vote disappeared in the European elections of this year, the same will happen again if a British Prime Minister breaks firm commitments and promises that are made to the British people.

I have got no great love for the Conservative Party at all. But I can see right now that by giving Boris half a chance, by keeping him honest and holding him to account by getting people in, and by stopping the fanatics in the Liberal Democrats who’d sign us up to everything, wouldn’t they, the United States of Europe, European army, you name it, I mean they even want to revoke the result of the referendum. No, I think our action, this announcement today prevents a second referendum from happening and that to me I think right now is the single most important thing in our country.

So in a sense, we now have a Leave Alliance. It’s just that we’ve done it unilaterally. We’ve decided ourselves that we absolutely have to put country before party and take the fight to Labour. Thank you very much indeed everybody, thank you.