August 23, 2018 / 4:22 PM / a month ago

Brexiteer Arron Banks joins Conservatives to help elect hardline leader

LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Arron Banks, who bankrolled one of the main campaigns for Britain leaving the EU, has joined the Conservative Party after calling on his supporters to follow his lead in an attempt to elect a hardline Brexiteer in any future party leadership contest.

Businessman Banks called on Brexit supporters to join the ruling Conservatives in a bid to “unite the right” and “save Brexit.”

Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled plans in July to keep Britain linked to European Union mechanisms on issues such as customs, angering those who favour a clean break from the EU and its institutions.

“Arron Banks has today joined the Conservatives to ensure he has a vote on the inevitable leadership contest,” the Leave.EU group, which Banks chairs, tweeted on Thursday.

“Let’s back a Brexiteer and make this country great again!”

May wants to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election, which is due in 2022, but she has faced continued rumours over how long she can survive since losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election last year.

After three months of membership, Banks would become eligible to vote in any leadership contest the party might hold.

In such a contest, Conservative members are asked to pick from two candidates chosen by the party’s elected Members of Parliament.

Conservative Party membership currently stands at over 124,000 people and is growing, Deputy Chairman James Cleverly said on Twitter on Aug. 22.

The Conservative Party could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday. (Reporting by Costas Pitas and William James; editing by Stephen Addison)

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