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Farage accuses MEPs who quit Brexit party of personal links with Tories

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Nigel Farage has accused three MEPs who quit his Brexit Party and urged people to vote Conservative of having personal links with the Tories.

He insisted that Boris Johnson's EU withdrawal deal remained "unacceptable" despite the trio resigning the whip to back the Prime Minister's push to "get Brexit done".

Annunziata Rees-Mogg - sister of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg - Lance Forman and Lucy Harris dramatically announced they would leave the Brexit Party on Thursday morning.

It follows the decision earlier this week to sack John Longworth, the former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, for "repeatedly undermining" Mr Farage's election strategy.

Mr Farage told the BBC's Andrew Neil: "One of them is a sister of a Cabinet minister, another one has a boyfriend working for that Cabinet minister, fact, and another one is a personal friend of Boris Johnson's."

He added: "They joined the coalition that I put together. Now they clearly were disaffected with Mrs May as leader and were not a Conservative Party.

"And I'll tell you something, Boris Johnson's deal unamended is unacceptable and I certainly stand by that."

The Brexit Party leader earlier said he was "disappointed" by the decision of the three MEPs, which will come as a blow to the party just a week before polling day.

Ms Rees-Mogg earlier denied that her brother or anyone in the Conservative Party played a role in her decision to quit the Brexit Party.

"I have had no approaches from the Conservative Party in any description and I am frankly finding it really quite disturbingly old-fashioned that people are suggesting that my brother gets to tell me what to do with my political views - he doesn't," she said.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the Conservatives have promised to cut taxes for families in a post-Brexit February budget as they set out their plan for the first 100 days of government.

Mr Johnson said 2020 would be "the year we finally put behind us the arguments and uncertainty over Brexit" if the Tories get a majority at the General Election.

The plan was branded "pure fantasy" and the Prime Minister has been accused of lying to the public, with the Liberal Democrats saying a Tory government would "remain completely consumed by Brexit not just for the next 100 days, but for years to come".

Mr Johnson's campaign bus was met by protesters shouting "hey, hey, ho, ho, Boris Johnson's got to go" as it arrived in Derbyshire for an election visit on Thursday afternoon.

Labour activists were among those outside the venue, along with a group holding signs about the "climate emergency".

Labour, meanwhile, has faced further criticism over its handling of anti-Semitism within party ranks.

Lawyers for the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) said 70 Labour staffers past and present had given sworn testimony into an official inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into anti-Semitism in the party.

According to a leaked copy of its submission to the inquiry, the JLM said Labour was "no longer a safe space" for Jewish people or those who stood up against anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn rejected claims he had made Labour a "refuge" for anti-Semites, telling reporters on Thursday: "I completely reject that."

He said: "When I became leader of the party, there were no processes in place to deal with anti-Semitism.

"We introduced an appeals procedure to deal with it and we introduced an education process, so that party members understood the hurt that can be caused by anti-Semitic remarks or anti-Semitic behaviour.

"I think we've got processes in place that have improved it a great deal."

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