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Nigel Farage And Douglas Carswell Split Over EU Exit Campaign

The UKIP leader is at odds with the party's only MP.

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Douglas Carswell
Gareth Fuller / PA

Douglas Carswell

Nigel Farage
Jonathan Brady / PA

Nigel Farage

The launch of a cross-party campaign for Britain to leave the EU has sparked a divide at the top of UKIP.

The Vote Leave campaign is backed by a number of big political donors, business leaders, and MPs from across parliament – including UKIP's only MP, Douglas Carswell.

But it is competing with Leave.EU – which is supported by UKIP leader Nigel Farage – to be designated the official "out" campaign in the referendum, due to be held by the end of 2017. Whichever group wins the title will get higher spending limits, TV broadcasts, and free mail shots.

Meanwhile those who want Britain to stay in the EU are under pressure to get their act together and ensure the "out" campaign doesn't hog the limelight. An official "in" campaign will launch on Monday, with a host of senior figures from "business, culture, and entertainment" set to turn up – including some "household names", BuzzFeed News understands.

Carswell made it clear on Friday he is throwing his weight behind the Vote Leave campaign, which is also backed by eurosceptic Conservative and Labour MPs. In a statement issued by the campaign, he declared: "I look forward to building a campaign that has no interest in party loyalties and is focused on what is best for Britain and our friends in Europe."

And he went further on Sky News: "It would be bad for UKIP and it would be bad for the 'out' campaign if we were to cut ourselves off from the campaign I believe most likely to get the designation."

His blunt comments were a blow for organisers of the Leave.EU campaign, which was launched by multimillionaire and UKIP backer Arron Banks. Last month the two men publicly clashed at UKIP's conference in Doncaster when Banks suggested Carswell should face deselection if he failed to back his campaign. Banks even branded Carswell "borderline autistic with mental illness wrapped in" – but later apologised.

Farage said last month that UKIP should stand "hand in hand" with Leave.EU. In a statement issued on Friday, he suggested that while the Vote Leave campaign was focused on Westminster and businesses, the UKIP-backed Leave.EU campaign would reach real people.

"I've given my support to Leave.EU which aims to engage the British public and has an amazing 200,000 registered supporters in its first seven weeks," he said.

"Equally, I support the pro-business arguments that have been made by Vote Leave today. Arguments that UKIP have been making for over 20 years. But we have to get outside of Westminster to reach millions of people who don't normally vote and for whom controlling our borders and having pride in our country are the biggest issues.

"I believe these campaigns are aiming at different audiences and are complementary not contradictory. Ultimately, I hope that we have one campaign that operates on a number of levels."

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

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