Ukip and Leave.EU have dramatically backed Grassroots Out (GO) in the latest twist in the campaign to win the official Brexit campaign nomination ahead of the EU referendum. GO, founded by Tory MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove as well as Labour Eurosceptic Kate Hoey, had originally said it would not compete for the designation from the Electoral Commission.
The group was able to attract high-profile MPs such as former defence secretary Liam Fox to speak at large public meetings. Ukip leader Nigel Farage also addressed the Brexit group's events and the organisation has the support of Arron Banks, the Ukip donor and Leave.EU co-founder.
It was the later campaign that had been bitterly fighting with Vote Leave to win the Brexit campaign nomination. But now Leave.EU will support GO in its efforts to gain the designation from the electoral watchdog. A spokesman for Leave.EU told IBTimes UK that the group is "100%" behind GO.
Ukip's ruling body has also backed GO in its bid to become the official Brexit campaign. The Eurosceptic party's National Executive Committee (NEC), along with its MEPs and Local Councillors Association, made the announcement on 9 February.
"We have been hoping and working for a rapprochement between the two main contenders for the designation, Vote Leave and Leave.EU. Unfortunately that has proved elusive," said Ukip chairman Steve Crowther.
"Meanwhile, Grassroots Out has emerged as the genuinely cross-party, well-organised, energetic campaigning group, which has the momentum and is drawing in support from all quarters. We felt it was time to make a decision and get out on the campaign trail."
The NEC's decision is significant since Ukip's sole MP Douglas Carswell and Ukip councillors could be in breach of the party's code of conduct if they continue to support Vote Leave. A spokesman for the Vote Leave campaign told IBTimes UK: "We wish Arron Bank's GO campaign well."
The latest opinion poll from YouGov for The Times, of more than 1,600 people between 3 and 4 February, put the 'leave' vote nine points ahead of 'remain', at 45% versus 36%, respectively.
Douglas Carswell had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.