One of Ukip’s biggest donors has claimed he has had his membership of the party suspended.
Aaron Banks, who has given millions of pounds to the party, said he believed it was because he suggested the "current leadership couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding".
But there was confusion over his claim, after a Ukip spokesperson said Mr Banks' membership had "lapsed earlier in the year".
Understand my UKIP membership has been suspended. Interesting times lie ahead ...— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) March 14, 2017
apparently for saying current leadership couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding ! https://t.co/YWQ7vtbTWH— Arron Banks (@Arron_banks) March 14, 2017
Asked by the Guardian if he would now sever all ties with Ukip, he quoted the pop star Taylor Swift, saying: “We are never ever getting back together … like ever.”
He also suggested he will now set up a new political force, which he described on Tuesday as “Ukip 2.0, the Force Awakens”
A source close to Mr Banks told Huffington Post UK the multimillionaire was now “100 per cent” certain to set up his own party.
In a post on Twitter this morning, Mr Banks said: "Understand my Ukip membership has been suspended. Interesting times lie ahead."
Asked why it had been suspended, he replied: "Apparently for saying current leadership couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding."
In a letter to Mr Banks, Paul Nuttall, the party leader, said the ruling executive was concerned about the damage his comments were doing to the party's reputation.
I'm on top of the world .... ��������— Douglas Carswell (@DouglasCarswell) March 14, 2017
To clarify: I'm on top of the world because Art 50 Bill just got Royal Assent, becoming law. And cause I'm a cheery person. Nothing else— Douglas Carswell (@DouglasCarswell) March 14, 2017
Responding to a critical open letter sent by Mr Banks in February, Mr Nuttall said the NEC had invited him to a meeting on March 27 - and his membership application would not be processed until after that.
He also warned that if Mr Banks continued to publicly criticise the party, that invitation would be withdrawn.
Responding to speculation around his Ukip membership, Mr Banks said: "Ukip has somehow managed to allow my membership to lapse this year despite having given considerably more than the annual membership fee over the past 12 months.
"On reapplying I was told my membership was suspended pending my appearance at a NEC meeting.
"Apparently, my comments about the party being run like a squash club committee and Mr Carswell have not gone down well.
"I now realise I was being unfair to squash clubs all over the UK and I apologise to them. We will now be concentrating on our new movement."
It comes after he dubbed the party’s new leader “weak” and pledged to launch his own movement aimed at motivating a million people.
Mr Banks, who has not donated to the party for two years, criticised Paul Nuttall’s leadership in an interview with the Independent.
He warned that the party has been “thrashing around” for purpose since the Brexit result last June which has seen support for Ukip drop.
Mr Banks also criticsed Douglas Carswell, Ukip’s only MP, who last month faced calls to quit over claims he blocked Mr Farage’s knighthood - allegations he denies.
However, Mr Carswell dismissed Mr Banks as "one of [Ukip's] 40,000 members".
Asked whether Mr Banks should be suspended, Mr Carswell told the BBC: "It's always sad when Ukip loses one of its 40,000 members," but added: "I have no more say in NEC decisions at Ukip than I do in who gets a knighthood."
Last month Mr Banks suggested he could stand against Mr Carswell in Clacton at the next general election.
"Each time I've stood there've been some wonderfully colourful characters on the ballot paper," Mr Carswell said.
"I even had a chap who changed his name by deed poll to Lord Ha Ha Woof Woof. I'm sure at the next election there'll be some colourful characters too - the more the merrier."
A Ukip spokesman said: "We are aware that Mr Banks has suggested on Twitter this morning that he has had his party membership suspended.
"Mr Banks was notified last year that his membership was due for renewal at the start of October but chose not to renew, despite reminders. With this his membership expired on January 1, 2017.
"It would not be possible to suspend Mr Banks from something of which he is not a member."