(Bloomberg) — Nigel Farage boosted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chances of winning a majority by dramatically announcing his Brexit Party won’t fight to oust Conservatives at next month’s U.K. general election. The pound rose.The Brexit Party leader told a rally in Hartlepool, northeast England, on Monday that it was a difficult decision to stand down candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won in the last national vote in 2017, but said he’s reassured by Johnson’s plans for a sharper split with the European Union.Farage said he’s “unilaterally” creating an “alliance” for Brexit to stop pro-EU politicians winning seats and triggering a second referendum to keep Britain in the bloc. He didn’t rule out withdrawing more of his party’s candidates in the future, if it might help the Tories win more of their target seats.“I have got no great love for the Conservative Party,” Farage said. “But I can see right now that by giving Boris half a chance, by keeping him honest and holding him to account,” it will be possible to deliver the Brexit he said voters want.Farage’s decision will be a relief for Conservative strategists. The biggest headache for Johnson has been the prospect of Farage’s Brexit Party splitting the euroskeptic vote in key districts. That could allow Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, or the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, to gain seats at the Tories’ expense.If that happened, it would significantly undermine Johnson’s chances of winning a majority. With the Brexit Party out of the way in these districts, pro-Brexit voters will have little choice but to vote for Johnson’s Conservatives.‘Ignite the Campaign’“This is set to really ignite the campaign,” Andrew Hawkins, chairman of the polling company ComRes, said in an interview. “This will definitely help the Tories.” Johnson’s Conservatives can win in key northern Tory-Labour marginal seats because the Labour vote is going to be split, Hawkins said.“I’m glad that there is a recognition that there’s only one way to get Brexit done and that is to vote for us and vote for the Conservatives,” Johnson told reporters during a campaign visit to Wolverhampton, which returned three Labour MPs in 2017. “We have a fantastic plan for this country.”Bookmakers’ odds also suggest Johnson now has an easier route to an overall majority in Parliament. Betway said there’s now about a 66% chance, compared with about 55% before Farage’s announcement.SkepticalNot everyone is convinced it will be the game changer on Dec. 12, because Farage still intends to field candidates in seats the Tories hope to gain from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said Farage’s move is “not offering the Conservatives much help” except in seats targeted by the Liberal Democrats. The Brexit Party retreat will reverse the gains made by the pro-EU party via its electoral pact with fellow anti-Brexit groups, Curtice said.Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly also appeared to play down the significance of Farage’s decision, while welcoming what he called “the pragmatic thing to do.” He told the BBC on Monday he still sees a risk that the Brexit Party standing in Labour or Liberal Democrat-held seats “might actually prevent the chances of a majority Conservative government.”Speaking to reporters, Farage would not say if he would withdraw more Brexit Party candidates to help the Tories win seats from Labour where the race is close. He claimed the government had offered to make him a Lord, and give him a seat in the unelected upper chamber of the U.K. Parliament, but insisted he is not interested and would refuse any such inducements.“We have decided ourselves that we absolutely have to put country before party and take the fight to Labour,” he said.Corbyn said U.S. President Donald Trump, who said he wanted Farage and Johnson to do a deal, had “got his wish.”The Labour leader said the “Trump alliance” of Johnson and Farage could pave the way for a free-trade deal with the U.S. that would open up the U.K.’s state-funded National Health Service to American companies. “It must be stopped,” he said.(Updates with Farage quotes throughout.)\–With assistance from Robert Hutton, Greg Ritchie and Dara Doyle.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in Hartlepool at tross54@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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