The Brexit Party has sacked one of its most high-profile figures and MEPs, accusing him of having “repeatedly undermined” Nigel Farage’s election strategy.
John Longworth is a former director-general of the British Chamber of Commerce who left the organisation after coming out in favour of leaving the European Union three months before the 2016 referendum.
He was one of 29 of Brexit Party candidates to be elected to the European Parliament at the May elections as part of Nigel Farage’s return to frontline politics.
Brian Monteith MEP, the Brexit Party’s chief whip, confirmed the whip in Brussels had been removed from Mr Longworth following perceived criticism of its “Brexit strategy”.
We regret having to remove the whip, but we have been left with no alternative after John Longworth repeatedly undermined the party’s Brexit strategy over the last few monthsBrian Monteith MEP, Brexit Party chief whip
It is understood Mr Longworth was dissatisfied with the Brexit Party leader Mr Farage’s insistence on fielding candidates in Labour marginal seats in a move that could prevent Boris Johnson from securing a Tory majority.
The party leader last month announced he would not contest the 317 seats won by the Tories at the 2017 election but has pushed ahead with attempts to win Labour heartlands in the North and Midlands of England where there was a strong Leave turnout at the referendum.
Mr Monteith said: “We regret having to remove the whip, but we have been left with no alternative after John Longworth repeatedly undermined the party’s Brexit strategy over the last few months.
“The Brexit Party shall not be deflected from, or undermined in, its campaign to win Labour seats.
“We are receiving a great reception from disenchanted Labour voters and have believe we have a good chance of winning in many seats.”
Mr Longworth, who represents the Yorkshire and Humber region, will be removed from the Brexit Party Group in Brussels with immediate effect, the Eurosceptic outfit confirmed.
The outspoken businessman, who had regularly appeared on television as a representative for the Brexit Party since its inception, had re-tweeted criticism of Mr Farage’s targeting of Labour voters as recently as mid-November.
In an interview with the Times in October, Mr Longworth said his fledgling party should be focusing on only 20-30 seats to ensure the Prime Minister had a majority to pass his Withdrawal Agreement.
Concentrate on 20 seats that will deliver Brexit, Farage toldhttps://t.co/Oqwhl6NdfW— John Longworth (@john4brexit) October 30, 2019
He told the newspaper: “I can imagine that (a sensible number of seats to target) might be 20 or 30.
“They would be entirely winnable then if you poured all your resources into them.”
Brexit Party sources said the message being aired by Mr Longworth was “totally at odds” with the party and “entirely off message”.
It is understood that the 61-year-old’s alleged siding with the Tories in recent days in Brussels, along with the sniping at Mr Farage’s election approach, was what caused Mr Monteith to approach the leadership about withdrawing the whip.
Mr Longworth has been approached for comment.