Nigel Farage calls on Leave campaign rival groups to work together
Rival groups battling to lead the Leave campaign at the European Union (EU) referendum will have to work together to achieve their ultimate goal, Nigel Farage has said as he suggested the "antagonism" between them is reducing.
Both Vote Leave and Grassroots Out (GO) have applied to the Electoral Commission to be designated as the official Leave group.
There is a lot at stake, with the winning team due to enjoy advantages in spending, campaign broadcasts and mail shots.
GO has the backing of Mr Farage and a selection of cross-party representatives while Vote Leave is supported by the likes of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Chris Grayling.
Mr Farage said that even if GO does not win the designation they will "keep going", but insisted its application is "objectively, by miles" superior to that of Vote Leave, a group he describes as "of the establishment".
He said: "The real point about this antagonism between the two groups is since the cabinet ministers have joined that antagonism has been far less. They understand we have all got to work together."
Mr Farage said he wants the two groups to get along regardless of who wins as he handed over the GO application to the Electoral Commission.
He added: "I've said all from the start that Vote Leave have fantastic research, they have got a great press operation.
"There is a lot of expertise in Vote Leave and I believe actually - as I have believed for months - that the two groups should come together because they are complementary.
"But their problem is they are so much seen as the centre right and so much seen as SW1, and not actually out round the country doing the stuff that we are doing."
He added: "I have wanted to work with them from the start. They have not wanted to work with us. Simple as."
The Electoral Commission will base its decision on things like the breadth of support enjoyed by each group, communication strategy and how each organisation plans to engage with other campaigners.
The decision is due to be announced by April 14 at the latest.
Only one group is expected to apply to lead the Remain side: Britain Stronger In Europe.
Mr Farage said differences between GO and Vote Leave have been "exaggerated".
He said: "Both these camps want Britain to vote to leave the European Union because we simply believe Britain should be a self-governing, independent nation."
The Ukip leader said he had tried "time and again" to try to persuade Vote Leave to work with GO but "they haven't wanted to".
"I'm sure on the 14th when we find out who gets official designation, I am sure, confident, that at that moment we will all work together.
"We have got to. This may be the only chance we get in our lifetimes."
However, in a sign of the tensions between the two groups Mr Farage said Vote Leave views GO supporters as "members of the lower orders".
"I've been playing nice with Vote Leave for months," he said.
"It's just that's not been reciprocated.
"I think they view many of the people here as members of the lower orders and not really fit to sit round the same table as them."
However, he stressed that since Government ministers had joined Vote Leave they have been "friendly and we are talking".
"We are all agreed that whatever happens on the 14th of April we have got to work together," he said.
Mr Farage suggested that the way in which GO is structured would allow its supporting parties to legally spend significant amounts of money during the campaign.
He said: "Vote Leave have set up a centralised organisation and created a whole load of new structures like Pets for Britain and all the rest of it.
"As far as I can see, legally they can only spend £7 million.
"If we get designation, GO can spend £7 million, Ukip can spend £4 million and every other one of the other groups."
Meanwhile, Tom Pursglove, the Tory MP for Corby and one of the founders of GO, was asked whether an apparent lack of name recognition could be a problem for his group should it win the designation.
He said: "No I don't actually and what cabinet ministers have said very clearly to me in private and also publicly is that they will work with whoever is designated because one of the things that I have been working towards is to try and bring everybody together.
"The whole purpose of Grassroots Out was to bring everybody together and actually this campaign cannot be won by a top-down establishment, single-party-dominated entity.
"This is a people's campaign. This captures the imagination of people who are interested in politics from across the political spectrum."
Vote Leave's bid for the designation received a boost as the Democratic Unionist Party backed the campaign.
The party's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: "My colleague and party leader, Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland, has committed the DUP to endorse Vote Leave to be designated the lead campaigner for Leave."
He added: " The question of British membership of the EU is a matter of fundamental national importance, and it is therefore imperative that the designated lead campaign should be a genuinely cross-party effort.
"As experienced political campaigners, with a proven track record of electoral achievement, we recognise the same skill set in those intimately involved in running Vote Leave."