Nigel Farage: 'If Boris wants a fight, hold my jacket'

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrives to cast his vote for the European Parliament elections 
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage arrives to cast his vote for the European Parliament elections.  Credit: PA

Nigel Farage, speaking exclusively to the Telegraph as he laid down a challenge to the Conservative party, has warned, “Boris says he wants to put me back in my box. So if he wants a fight - hold my jacket.”  

The Brexit Party leader puts the chance of a general election by autumn at 50/50, whether the next prime minister takes Britain out of the EU with a deal or without one, and is gearing up for the battle. 

Mr Farage revealed he had already met major Conservative party donors, who would flock to his party “in droves” ahead of an election sparked by Britain remaining in the EU beyond the October 31 Brexit deadline. 

“At the moment all we hear from the Conservatives is aggression. Arrogance and aggression. As if it is their divine right to these votes. It isn’t,” he said.  

Mr Farage dismissed Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the two Tory leadership contenders to replace Theresa May as prime minister, and any talk of an alliance with the Conservatives to head off the threat of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson Credit: PA

“We’ve got two contenders, ‘Hard Man Hunt’ versus ‘Brexit Boris’,” he said, “Which Boris is it? Is it the Boris who voted no twice or the Boris who voted yes once?”

Mr Johnson voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal twice before backing it the third time it came before the House of Commons, when it was also rejected by MPs. 

Mr Farage laughed off the idea that Mr Johnson’s leadership would revitalise a Conservative party that suffered humiliation at his hands in May’s European elections. 

“This is the chap who voted for the withdrawal agreement. The Tories have had a three point bounce in the polls, with it already written in that Boris wins. It is not a very big bounce is it?”

He warned Mr Johnson that if tries to smuggle a dressed up version of  May’s deal through parliament “there would be years and years of endless conflict and misery to come” as “we won't have left at all”. 

Mr Farage admitted he faced a massive challenge in transforming his success in the European election into something similar in a national vote. 

“The funding will come. We’re raising lots of lots of bits of little money and when you do that the big money follows,” he said.

“I promise you that if on October 31, Britain is still in the EU, major Tory donors will come to us in droves. I’ve met them already.” 

He hopes to have 650 approved candidates ready to stand if an election is called, including his 29 MEPs, by the end of this week. “We are deadly serious about this,” he added. 

“The easiest vote is the Labour vote. Labour is essentially moving towards being a remainer, second referendum party. There is a target vote there,” Mr Farage said. 

“Corbyn’s popularity peaked two years ago at Glastonbury. That was peak Corbyn. We are way over that", he said. “He is beginning to look like a bit of a duffer and his anti-Semitism problem is getting worse not better.”

“With the Conservative Party, well the word is trust. There has been a breakdown of trust. The party constantly says one thing and does another.” 

Mr Farage said the Brexit Party was working on domestic policies and that leaving the EU was just a “small part” of what the disruptive insurgent group was about. 

The party is banking on an investment program in infrastructure, such as high speed broadband, paid for by halving the foreign aid budget and not paying the £39bn Brexit bill. 

Other ideas put forward include cutting regulation for SMEs, abolishing the House of Lords and introducing a limited form of proportional representation, and cancelling the HS2 railway. 

Mr Farage branded interest payments on student loans “usury”, and “rebalancing” the further education system to encourage people towards skills and trades. 

He said he was personally in favour of encouraging “wealthier people” to go for private health insurance to alleviate pressure on the NHS, although that is not party policy.

“This is huge fun,” he said, “if the fear of us drives Brexit over the line - happy days. If it doesn't, we will become a very major force in British politics.”