Tories unlikely to select correct new leader, says Farage

Brexit Party leader predicts general election win if Conservatives fail on October Brexit

Nigel Farage has predicted that his Brexit Party will win the next general election if a new Conservative leader fails to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31st. Speaking after his party won 29 seats in the European Parliament with almost a third of the popular vote in Britain, Mr Farage said he thought it was unlikely that the Conservatives would pick the right leader.

“The Conservative Party are bitterly divided and I consider it to be extremely unlikely that they will pick a leader who is able to take us out on October 31st come what may,” he said.

“We might overnight have made their lives a bit easier but I don’t see them being able to deliver and I think the real barrier, the real obstruction to all of this, is a two-party system that may well have worked in decades gone by but is no longer fit for purpose.”

Mr Farage pointed out that the two leading Brexiteer candidates to succeed Theresa May, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, both voted for the withdrawal agreement on March 29th.

‘Worst deal’

“Which of the leading Tory contenders did not vote for the worst deal in history, Mrs May’s new European treaty? Why would I trust any of them? Why would I believe any of them?” he said.

The Liberal Democrats, who want to reverse Brexit through a second referendum, were the other big winners from the elections, coming in second place with 20 per cent of the vote. The party's leader Vince Cable claimed that the election showed that most people in Britain now wanted to remain in the European Union.

Labour's poor performance, slipping into third place on 14 per cent and losing half its seats, has unleashed a dispute at the top of the party about its Brexit strategy. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said heavy losses to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and Greens showed that Labour supporters wanted the party to back a second referendum.

"The only way to break the Brexit impasse is to go back to the public with a choice between a credible Leave option and Remain," Sir Keir said.

Second referendum

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that although Labour would continue to seek a general election, a second referendum was the only realistic option.

“We’re not going to give up on getting a general election, but that’s unrealistic to expect that now, so we’ve got to say to people very plainly – to prevent a no deal, whatever political party you are in, join us now and try to campaign to go back to the people. We might be able to get a majority in parliament for a referendum, so we’re going to go for it,” he told Sky News.

Home secretary Sajid Javid on Monday became the ninth candidate to join the contest to succeed Mrs May as Conservative leader, promising to deliver Brexit and "restore trust, bring unity and create new opportunities" across the country.

Mr Javid joins cabinet colleagues Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove and former ministers Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey, as well as Mr Johnson and Mr Raab in the race.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times