NIGEL Farage has refused to rule out returning to frontline politics despite confirming he will not stand to replace former Ukip leader Paul Nuttall.
The Brexiteer-in-chief confirmed he would not return to lead the party for a fourth time after the resignation of Mr Nuttall, who stepped down after the party lost a significant share of the vote in both local and national elections.
But Mr Farage refused to rule out returning to the fray in the event Theresa May failed to negotiate “a full and proper Brexit”.
He said: “It is already something of an ongoing joke about the number of times I have stood for the leadership and resigned.
“To return now would be premature.
“But I’m still committed to the great Brexit battle and I will continue in my role as the leader of a group in the European Parliament, overseeing the Brexit process.
“In many ways, what happens in that parliament over the next two years is perhaps as important as everything that goes on in Westminster.
“Of course I want a full and proper Brexit, and if in 2019 we reach the end of the Article 50 process and a huge gap is left, whether that is not taking back our fishing rights, the continuation of free movement or still paying Brussels too much money, I would not hesitate in throwing myself back into the front line of domestic politics.”
“For the moment, it’s difficult to tell how this will turn out.”
And the arch eurosceptic went on to claim Jeremy Corbyn could be the leading force in the battle for a clean break from the European Union, claiming the socialist’s “old Bennite anti-EU passions are back to the fore”.
Mr Farage added: “Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn will be the one who holds the Government’s feet to the fire on Britain leaving the single market.
“His sacking of three shadow cabinet members hints that his old Bennite anti-EU passions are back to the fore.”
Mr Farage, who resigned from national politics following victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum, hit out at Ukip’s National Executive Committee (NEC), who he claimed “held him back” in his former role as party leader.
Writing in the Telegraph, he added: “Most of those elected [in the NEC] are enthusiastic volunteers, are all unpaid and all care about the cause.
“But few have any idea about campaigning, media or raising money.
“As Ukip grew from a tiny party to winning the European elections of 2014, I found myself increasingly frustrated with this governing body.
“Time and again I was outvoted on important decisions and could not take the party in the direction I wanted.
“The thought of going back to a job I may not be allowed to do, if, again, I’m held back by totally unqualified people is not something I’m prepared to contemplate.”