Multi-millionaire Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes has urged voters to back Boris Johnson in today’s election, in direct contrast to his ally Nigel Farage.
Mr Sykes left the Conservative Party in 1992 and during the 2014 European elections he joined forces with Ukip, then under Mr Farage’s leadership, to run their anti-EU campaign.
A prominent backer of the party, he is widely understood to have contributed more than £1m to its 2014 campaign. But now, despite Mr Farage standing candidates under his new guise of the Brexit Party, Mr Sykes has pushed for voters to put their faith in Mr Johnson.
Mr Sykes said: “Today we will have an opportunity to elect a government committed to leading this country out of the EU and start embracing the wider world especially our commonwealth countries. When you step into that voting booth, think about how important it is to elect people that’s got your interest at heart here in the UK, not some distant bureaucrat in Brussels.”
Mr Sykes’ intervention comes after prominent Yorkshire Brexit Party MEPs John Longworth and Lucy Harris also distanced themselves from the party and backed the Tories last week.
Mr Sykes, the builder of Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre, said: “As a businessman and philanthropist, I have had significant experience investing to create wealth for the many not the few.
“For many years – more than 25 in fact – I have distanced myself from a Conservative Party committed to remaining in the European Union. Since John Mayor considered joining the Euro in 1992 and the Maastricht Treaty, I left the party and joined forces with Nigel Farage whom I respect.”
But he said now “we are at last seeing a Conservative leader who seems determined to get this great nation back to self-government something we should all be proud of”.