Ukip's Nigel Farage rallies No supporters ahead of EU referendum campaign
The No campaign will never get off the ground if Ukip does not start campaigning immediately, Nigel Farage has claimed - despite insisting he is not interested in who becomes its official figurehead.
The Ukip leader vowed to start the ground war in September ahead of the crunch poll which has to be held before the end of 2017 but could come as soon as next summer.
In a speech in Westminster, Mr Farage hit out at eurosceptics in other parties for falling silent while David Cameron works on renegotiation of Britain's membership before spearheading the Yes campaign.
The Ukip leader said the party was "not interested" in the Prime Minister's "technical renegotiation", which he said failed to address public concerns about the free movement of people, sovereignty and the cost of EU membership.
And surrounded by Say No branding, he insisted: "Quite why these eurosceptics in the Conservative Party have decided to say and do nothing, I don't know. Perhaps in many ways I shouldn't be surprised.
"But given we face the political opportunity of a generation, it is hopeless in a marathon race to the line in this referendum to give the Prime Minister and the Yes side a 13 mile start.
"In the absence of anybody else, Ukip is going to take the lead in this country and we are going to launch in September a major ground campaign. We are going to launch in the first week of September the biggest public outreach programme this party has ever attempted."
He continued: "We must challenge the Cameron government renegotiation at every single stage. So we will in the first week of September launch our biggest ever public campaign, we are going to hold literally hundreds of public meetings up and down this country.
"We will mobilise a people's army against the Westminster elites and their friends in corporate business.
"Ukip will lead this ground campaign in the country but that is not the same as saying this is some dramatic bid by me... to think Ukip will get the official designation of the No campaign. We won't and we won't be applying."
Urging all eurosceptics to unite, Mr Farage said: "You will hear no negativity from us once they get off their backsides and decide to join this fight.
"We cannot allow Cameron to go into this renegotiation unchallenged, we cannot allow the Yes side to have a massive head start they have got in the polls and the general campaign in the country and I would say to eurosceptics of every hue in Britain, we are going to be out there from September 1, come and join us."
Answering questions after the speech, Mr Farage said he "couldn't care less" who was chosen to lead the formal No campaign, or to take part in a TV debate with the Prime Minister.
Asked whether he could name anyone who could do better in debates than he would, Mr Farage said: "I'm sure there's a very long list indeed.
"It will be up to whoever gets the designation for the No campaign to pick the person who will do that debate against David Cameron. Do you know what? It may even be somebody who's never been in politics before. It may be somebody who the British public actually know."