Fate of nation’s future is lying with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, says ROSS CLARK

Yet little more than four months later it took 30.5 per cent of the vote in the European elections, securing 29 of Britain's 73 seats in Brussels. It succeeded because it presented the public with one clear policy - properly enacting the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum - at a time when other parties were prevaricating. The Brexit Party was everything that the Independent Group for Change, the eagerly awaited party that many were expecting to break the mould of British politics, wasn't.

But it is the Brexit Party's very clarity of purpose which should lead it to conclude that it would be folly to contest more than a handful of seats now. Its overriding aim to enact Brexit would be far better assured if it stood aside in most constituencies and allowed the Conservatives a clear run.To his credit, leader Nigel Farage seems well aware of this and will make an announcement of their strategy very soon.

It is true the withdrawal deal that Boris Johnson has negotiated with the EU is far from perfect. It will create a kind of regulatory and customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland - something that has deeply offended the Conservatives' partners in the last Parliament, the DUP.

Theresa May was right to be wary of such an arrangement.

Yet it is a vast improvement on May's deal. Crucially, it eliminates the backstop, a device that May's own attorney general confirmed could be used to trap the United Kingdom for ever in a subservient, de facto membership of the EU. Unless the EU had agreed to release us from the backstop, and it had a lot of incentive not to, we would have been forever bound by EU law and trade rules without having a say in how those laws and rules were made.

For all its faults, Boris's deal is the only one now on the table. It was clear in the last Parliament that MPs will go to the ends of the Earth to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and that is unlikely to change with the new Parliament. Moreover, while the referendum proved that a majority of the public would like to leave the EU, polls held in recent times suggest there is no majority in favour of a no-deal Brexit. The only way to unite the country is for a deal along the lines of that which Boris in proposing.

With support for the Brexit Party polling at about 12 percent, it would be futile for it to fight a nationwide campaign in the hope of replicating its success in the European elections. All it would achieve is to split the Leave vote and make a Jeremy Corbyn victory all the more likely. Prospective Brexit Party candidates have to appreciate how tight this election could be. The Tories might seem in line for a victory, but they are a long way short of being sure of a majority. Anything less would prove extremely difficult for Boris Johnson.

With the DUP set against his deal the Conservatives have no potential partners for a coalition or confidence and supply agreement. The inevitable result of a hung parliament would be Jeremy Corbyn trying to stitch together a highly unstable partnership with Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. The latter would demand a second referendum on Scottish independence, while the Lib Dems and much of Labour would demand a second referendum between Remain and a Leave option so insipid we might as well stay.

If the Brexit Party wants to avoid Brexit being lost, its strategy should be clear. It should fight only seats where the Conservatives have no chance of winning.

By focusing its resources, the Brexit Party has a realistic chance of picking up a very small number of seats in traditional Labour-voting areas. It is not realistic, however, for them to expect an electoral pact with the Tories, the latter standing aside in seats where the Brexit Party looks like making a strong showing. As a governing party, the Conservatives must fight every seat - even if they do not devote many resources to some of them.

There should, however, be some official recognition for Nigel Farage's role in giving voice to those who spent decades quietly wanting to leave the EU - and for proving that a view dismissed by established parties as being on the fringe was in fact shared by a majority of the population.

An ambassadorship or some such role should be found for him. We keep hearing calls for cross-party co-operation and for governments to utilise talents from across the political spectrum. It is time that was extended to the Brexit Party.

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