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Former Brexit Party MEP John Tennant also said he would not allow the Brexit Party – especially leader Nigel Farage – to be airbrushed out of the picture when the story of how Britain came to quit the EU is told. The Conservatives were propelled to victory in December by picking up dozens of seats in Labour heartlands, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s old seat of Sedgefield in the North-East.
Mr Tennant’s comments come at a time when Red Wall Conservative MPs are thought to be increasingly unhappy at stringent coronavirus restrictions being imposed in the north, and yesterday 50 of them from the recently formed Northern Research Group wrote to the Prime Minister to call for a post-pandemic economy plan coupled with a roadmap out of lockdown.
Speaking before they sent their letter, Mr Tennant, who is demanding the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU is ditched as he believes it leaves the UK too closely aligned with the bloc, said voters would not forgive the Tories if they failed to deliver on Mr Johnson’s famous pledge to “get Brexit done”.
Mr Tennant has outlined his ideas in a new book, Rebooting Brexit, published earlier this month, with a foreword by Mr Farage himself.
He told Express.co.uk he and his Brexit Party colleagues had been left disappointed by the failure to win any seats themselves in the election, which would have enabled them to put more pressure on the Tories.
He explained: “We had every intention of doing that and that is why we targeted the Labour seats that we thought we had a good chance of winning.
“I don’t think the Conservative Party even thought they would win in Sedgefield.
“That was one of the biggest surprises of the election.
“But as I point out in the book, one of the happy coincidences is that most people who are strong Brexiteers who come from a Labour-style background could not, even at the height of Conservative dominance in the polls, bring themselves to vote Conservative.
“So the Red Wall, to an extent, was not necessarily a massive Conservative victory.”
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I think the Conservatives have borrowed the Brexit vote
In a pointed message for Mr Johnson, Mr Tennant added: “I think the Conservatives have borrowed the Brexit vote.
“But they will have to be very careful how they hold that vote over the next four years.”
Mr Tennant who, like his erstwhile leader, has not ruled out a return to the political fray if Mr Johnson signs a substandard trade deal with the EU, said he was also determined to ensure the efforts of Brexiteers were not forgotten.
He said: “One of the reasons for writing the book was that I wanted the story of the Brexit Party to be there in black and white so that it does not disappear.
“I am concerned that Brexit is being taken away from the people who made it happen, which is Nigel Farage, basically.”
Reflecting on his time in Brussels, Mr Tennant also suggested other countries may eventually follow the UK’s example.
He said: “I did meet some MEPs from various different countries who are sceptical of the European project.
“But they are to varying degrees, in terms of how far their euroscepticism goes.
“Some are anti-euro, some are anti-Schengen – it is not necessarily absolute explicit that they want to leave the EU itself.
“But there are a handful of MEPs in various different countries who may see the only solution for getting back control is to leave the EU themselves.”
He stressed: “If the EU itself does not listen to countries which are genuinely struggling under the competition regulations and so on and so forth, then those countries will one day see an exit of sorts as the last solution they have.
“If Britain makes a success of Brexit, those countries will say ‘we want to have some of that ourselves’.”
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