He also heaped praise on Mr Farage for his decision not to field candidates in seats where Tories were elected in 2017, suggesting fundamentally the two parties were on the same side. Mr Francois, speaking in his constituency office in Rayleigh in Essex during a break from campaigning to be re-elected as MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, told Express.co.uk: “I think Nigel did do the right thing in deciding not to oppose incumbent Conservatives and as I understand it he is turning most of his fire on Labour and to some extent the Liberal Democrats, rightly, because those are the people who have been stopping Brexit in Parliament.
“I argued at the time that it made little sense the Brexit Party and the Conservative Party taking massive lumps out of each other when we both wanted the same objective, which was to leave the European Union.
“I think what he has done is right and we should say so and I understand in some parts of the country the Brexit Party are putting the Labour Party under serious pressure.”
Mr Farage announced his abrupt u-turn on November 11, justifying his decision by pointing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s apparent commitment to negotiating a so-called Super-Canada Plus trade deal with the EU after Brexit.
Mark Francois thinks Nigel Farage deserves more respect from the Tories
Nigel Farage campaigning in Hartlepool yesterday
Nevertheless, he simultaneously voiced significant reservations about the Brexit deal Mr Johnson has negotiated with Brussels.
Mr Francois said: “With regard to Boris’s deal, I have obviously looked at that extremely carefully as the deputy chairman of the ERG, so did my chairman Steve Baker, so did all the other members of the ERG including the so-called 28 Spartans, as we nicknamed, who voted against May’s deal all three times.
“Boris’s deal is different in that in one sentence it takes us out of the European Union and Theresa May’s deal does not.
Boris Johnson has refused to stand any Tory candidates down
“I’m happy to go through why that is but in a nutshell we all of us to a man and woman voted for Boris’s deal in the end because our acid test was does it take us out of the EU and it does.”
As for Mr Farage’s future political career, Mr Francois said: “If we Brexit, if there is a majority Conservative Government which will that deal through Parliament and we leave by the end of January – and I believe that is now a realistic prospect – if we do that then in a sense Nigel’s life’s work has been achieved.
“But that’s ultimately a decision for him. I think it’s fair to say that my party has not always respected Nigel perhaps in the way that we should have done.
Election 2019 LIVE: Corbyn’s damning legacy on Labour CEMENTED [BLOG]
BBC QT audience member applauded after lashing out at Labour MP on tax [VIDEO]
BBC QT audience member mocks Labour for taking UK ‘forward to 1970s’ [VIDEO]
ERG chairman Steve Baker
Nigel Farage was instrumental in forcing the referendum, said Mr Francois
He stressed: “I still want people to vote Conservative in the general election, don’t be under any illusions about that.
“But you could argue that if Nigel Farage had never been born, we’d never have had an EU referendum in the first place.”
Nevertheless, he defended the decision of the Conservative Party not to stand any of its own candidates down to maximise the Brexit Party’s chances of winning some seats, despite Mr Farage’s pleas.
Nigel Farage factfile
Mr Farage subsequently accused the Tories of “putting party before country”.
However, Mr Francois said: “I don’t think we were going to do that.
“In the end, we’ve ended up in a position where we are all fighting to leave the European Union, all 635 Tory candidates have all personally pledged to back Boris Johnson’s deal, so any of them who are elected to Parliament so there should be no mucking about on that side.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May
“And the Brexit Party wants to leave the European Union as well, so they want to leave, we want to leave.
“Here it is in a nutshell: if you really want to leave the European Union, I’d argue you vote Conservative, if you really desperately want to remain, I suppose you vote Liberal Democrat.
“And if you haven’t got the faintest clue, you vote Labour, because neither have they.”