Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s only Member of Parliament, has announced he is leaving the party to sit as an independent, just days before he faced a crucial meeting with the party’s National Executive Committee.
In a statement, the MP said he was leaving “amicably” and will not be joining another political party.
Carswell defected from the Conservatives in 2014 in a move described at the time as a “political bombshell”, but things soon turned sour as he was accused of plotting against then party leader Nigel Farage.
Announcing his decision on Saturday, Carswell insisted he was leaving because the job of Brexit is done, and there is no need for UKIP anymore.
“It has been an extraordinary achievement,” he said. “UKIP, my party, which was founded in 1993 in order to get Britain out of the European Union, has now achieved what we were established to do.
“On Wednesday, the Prime Minister is going to trigger Article 50, beginning the formal process of withdrawing our country from the EU.
“By April 2019, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU. After twenty-four years, we have done it. Brexit is in good hands.”
Last October, a book claimed Carswell only joined the party as part of a plot concocted with Tory MEP Dan Hannan to “neutralise” Mr Farage.
“Angry, nativist Ukip risked being so toxic that if it ran the referendum it would do to the Eurosceptic cause what kryptonite did to Superman,” Carswell told journalist Owen Bennett, adding: “That could not be allowed to happen”.
Dan Hannan added: “Douglas felt he could hold his seat under pretty much any colours and prevent Ukip losing us the referendum with a negative campaign.”
Upon defecting from the Conservatives, Carswell resigned his seat in parliament and stood for re-election under his new party colours, establishing a new precedent for MPs crossing the floor.
This time, however, he claims there is no need to call a by-election.
“I will not be switching parties, nor crossing the floor to the Conservatives, so do not need to call a by election, as I did when switching from the Conservatives to UKIP,” he said. “I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent.”
Andy Wigmore, a spokesman for UKIP donor Arron Banks, suggested Carswell was leaving the party because he was about to be expelled anyway.
“The net has been closing in – there is a Ukip National Executive Committee meeting on Monday and he knew he was for the chop, so jumped,” he said.
“He should call a by-election and Arron will stand against him.”
In response to Carswell’s decision, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall said he was “never a comfortable Ukipper”.
“Our party has not benefited financially or organisationally from having Douglas in Westminster. With this in mind, his departure will make no difference to my ability or focus on delivering the reforms I promised when elected as Leader.
“As we redefine our mission and take up the next phase of our campaign to rebuild a confident, independent nation, Douglas would have been increasingly out of kilter with our members’ aspirations.”