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Ukip could stand aside in dozens of marginal seats to help ‘real Brexiteers’

Ukip is launching its General Election campaign.

Ukip could be prepared to stand aside in dozens of constituencies in order to help sitting MPs who are “real Brexiteers” hold on to marginal seats.

Party leader Paul Nuttall said that while Ukip candidates would contest the “vast majority” of seats, local branches have been urged to stand aside to give a “free ride” to MPs who share their views on the European Union.

Mr Nuttall also defended his party’s controversial “integration strategy”, insisting Ukip was “not at war with Muslims”.

The Ukip leader has sparked widespread controversy with his proposal to outlaw the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women, as well as banning sharia law and forcing girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) to face regular medical checks.

Ukip is launching its general election campaign and Mr Nuttall has confirmed he will do his “duty” as leader by standing for election to the Commons, although he has refused to say which seat he will fight.

Setting out the party’s approach, Mr Nuttall said he had asked “a number” of branches to consider standing aside in favour of Leave-supporting incumbents from all parties, although the majority of pro-Brexit MPs are Conservatives.

“I’m not talking about five-to-midnight Brexiteers, or people who have just come to this opinion recently, I’m talking about people who have campaigned with us for many years, whether that’s on platforms with Vote Leave or Leave.EU or GO,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He insisted that “we are not talking hundreds, we are talking tens” of seats where such an arrangement could be put in place.

“Ukip will be standing in the vast majority of the country, but in a small number of seats where you have real Brexiteers of all political affiliations sitting on slender majorities, I think it would be best if the Ukip branches stood aside to allow them a free ride to get back into the House of Commons.”

The burka-ban policy has seen West Midlands MEP James Carver quit as foreign affairs spokesman, describing the policy as “incompatible” with his desire to represent all of his constituents and to seek a global perspective for the United Kingdom, while former donor Arron Banks accused Mr Nuttall of going to “war” with Muslim communities.

Mr Nuttall said: “We are not at war with Muslims. What we want to see is equality, we want to see integration.”

The Ukip leader said “integration was getting worse” and “communities are becoming more divided”.

He said: “If you want to really enjoy the full fruits of British society you have to show your face. I’ll give you an example – 58% of Muslim women in Britain are economically inactive. If you aren’t prepared to show your face it precludes you from lots of streams of employment.”

Mr Nuttall said it was his “duty to lead the party into battle” at the June 8 General Election, but refused to comment on speculation that he would fight the Boston and Skegness seat.

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