UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell is quitting the party

Lara O'Reilly
Nigel Farage Douglas Carswell

REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

UKIP's Douglas Carswell announced on Saturday he is quitting the party to become an independent MP for Clacton.

In a statement on his website, Carswell said he was leaving UKIP "amicably".

Carswell was UKIP's only member of Parliament. Last month, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage accused Carswell of sabotaging his chances of being awarded a knighthood for his services to the campaign to leave the European Union and called for him to be kicked out of the party.

Referring to the UK public's vote to leave the European Union last summer, Carswell said in his statement on Saturday: "I will leave UKIP amicably, cheerfully and in the knowledge that we won."

UK Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, March 29. Article 50 is the formal notification of Britain's intention to leave the EU. The withdrawal — known as "Brexit" — is expected to complete by April 2019.

Carswell wrote on Saturday: "Like many of you, I switched to UKIP because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving UKIP."

In 2014, Carswell defected from the Conservative Party to UKIP. Earlier this year, a report from The Daily Telegraph suggested he might switch back to help the Conservatives defend its leadership in the 2020 election.

But Carswell said that will not be the case — at least for now: "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. I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent."

Paul Nuttall

Joe Giddens PA Wire/PA ImagesIn a statement, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall said Carswell's resignation was "not a surprise."

Nuttall continued: "Douglas was genuinely committed to Brexit, but was never a comfortable Ukipper. On Monday, he had been due to meet with the National Executive Committee to answer various questions relating to longstanding issues, including published allegations that he had joined us in order to try to minimise Nigel Farage’s involvement in the Referendum."

The UKIP leader said the party has not benefited "financially or organisationally" from having Carswell in the party, adding that he would have been "out of kilter" with its members.

Nuttall concluded: "We now have an opportunity to put behind us the most damaging internal conflict which has dogged us over the past year, and look forward with optimism and unity of purpose to the very real challenges of policing Brexit and further reforming the vigorous democracy of the UK."

Carswell's statement in full:

"Job done - thank UKIP!

It has been an extraordinary achievement. 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.

UKIP might not have managed to win many seats in Parliament, but in a way we are the most successful political party in Britain ever. We have achieved what we were established to do – and in doing so we have changed the course of our country's history for the better. Make no mistake; we would not be leaving the EU if it was not for UKIP – and for those remarkable people who founded, supported and sustained our party over that period.

Our party has prevailed thanks to the heroic efforts of UKIP party members and supporters. You ensured we got a referendum. With your street stalls and leafleting, you helped Vote Leave win the referendum. You should all be given medals for what you helped make happen – and face the future with optimism.

Like many of you, I switched to UKIP because I desperately wanted us to leave the EU. Now we can be certain that that is going to happen, I have decided that I will be leaving UKIP.

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. I will simply be the Member of Parliament for Clacton, sitting as an independent.

I will leave UKIP amicably, cheerfully and in the knowledge that we won.

At the hundreds of meetings and action days I have attended as a UKIP activist across the country since I joined in August 2014, I have met some truly remarkable people. You are heroes! Thank you and well done. I wish you all well.

When first elected to represent Clacton in 2005, I promised to do all I could to help ensure that Britain left the EU. To the consternation of my then party whips (some of who, I'm delighted to see, are now ministers helping make Brexit happen), I made my intentions on that front plain in my maiden speech. Job done.

I will be putting all of my effort into tackling some of the local problems affecting the NHS in our part of Essex, including GP shortages and the threat to our local Minor Injuries Unit. In that spirit, I called a Westminster Hall debate last week about the future of primary care in our part of Essex. Local comes first.

Cheer up! The days when small elites can try to arrange human social and economic affairs by grand design are coming to an end. Change is coming - Brexit is just the beginning."

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall's statement in full:

"Douglas Carswell has announced today that he is resigning from UKIP, to sit as an independent MP. He has said that he is doing this ;cheerfully and amicably'.

This is not a surprise. I was elected on a pledge to forge unity in the party, and have had many discussions with key players to try and make that happen, but it had become increasingly clear to me that some things were simply beyond reach.

Douglas was genuinely committed to Brexit, but was never a comfortable Ukipper. On Monday, he had been due to meet with the National Executive Committee to answer various questions relating to longstanding issues, including published allegations that he had joined us in order to try to minimise Nigel Farage’s involvement in the Referendum.

Douglas’s defection to UKIP in 2014, along with Mark Reckless, and the two by-elections we fought successfully for them, proved that UKIP was capable of getting members elected to Parliament – albeit, it was still a tough task (as I know only too well, personally).

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.

We now have an opportunity to put behind us the most damaging internal conflict which has dogged us over the past year, and look forward with optimism and unity of purpose to the very real challenges of policing Brexit and further reforming the vigorous democracy of the UK."

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