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Brexit Party won't challenge Conservatives in UK vote

HARTLEPOOL, England (AP) — In a major shift, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said Monday his party will not run against Conservative candidates in almost half of the U.K. seats available in Britain's Dec. 12 election to make sure it doesn't split the pro-Brexit vote.

Farage said the party will not put forward any candidates in the 317 seats that the Conservatives won in the last election, an announcement that should boost the chances that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives win a majority.

Farage said he was putting country before party by unilaterally forming a "leave alliance" with the Conservatives at the expense of parties seeking to slow or stop Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.

"If we field 600 candidates, there will be a hung Parliament," Farage said, adding that an unclear result in the Dec. 12 election could easily lead to a second Brexit referendum that might upend his long-held goal of seeing Britain leave the 28-nation bloc.

Farage has been under huge pressure from Brexit supporters not to run candidates in seats where there is a risk of splitting the Brexit vote and letting those who want to remain in the EU or hold a new EU membership referendum to seize control.

Monday's move represents a substantial change in tactics, for only last week Farage had threatened to run against the Conservatives in almost every seat in the nation— 650 seats are up for grabs — unless they agreed to team up with his Brexit Party. He vowed to fight the Conservatives in England, Wales and Scotland.

Johnson refused the offer, which included a demand that he drop his Brexit divorce deal. Over the weekend, several right-wing British newspapers urged Farage to change tack, saying there was a risk that Britain might not leave the EU if the opposition Labour Party comes to power.

Johnson told reporters while campaigning Monday that he was "glad that there's a recognition" that only his party can get Brexit done. The prime minister said he had not discussed any deal with Farage, who in turn said he had not been promised anything by the Conservatives.

Labour has vowed to renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal with the EU, then hold a new referendum for British voters to decide on whether to leave the bloc on those terms or remain. Farage said he had been encouraged by recent comments from Johnson ruling out an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020. He said the plan now is "to take the fight to Labour," which he accused of betraying 5 million of its supporters who had voted to leave the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

"The Conservative Party say they want Brexit but have been taking that in a very questionable direction. But overnight the prime minister signaled a change of direction," Farage told the AP. Farage made his announcement in Hartlepool, a former shipbuilding town in northeast England that has voted Labour for more than 50 years, but also voted strongly in 2016 to leave the EU. It is one of the Brexit Party's top target seats in the election.

Businessman Richard Tice, the Brexit Party candidate in Hartlepool, denied that the party's decision to halve the number of its candidates was a sign of weakness. "We have made a unilateral, strategically important decision for the country," he told The Associated Press.

Paul Beaumont, a Brexit Party supporter from the Hartlepool area, praised Farage's decision. "I thought it was a good solution to the situation we are in," he said. "It allows us to ensure that we don't have a second referendum."

On the campaign trail, Labour and the Conservatives were using Armistice Day to showcase their plans to improve the lot of veterans if they win the Dec. 12 election. Johnson's party on Monday unveiled proposals to make it harder to bring veterans to court over allegations of abuse that took place before the Human Rights Act took force in 2000, and announced a series of measures to help veterans get jobs.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party said it would improve housing and work conditions for veterans. Meanwhile, Corbyn's foreign policy adviser, Emily Thornberry, raised questions about Britain's nuclear deterrent when she told ITV on Monday it is not clear that Corbyn, if he becomes prime minister, would use nuclear weapons if Britain was threatened.

"It's impossible, I think, for any human to say whether they would be prepared to kill millions," she said.

Katz reported from London.

Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at

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