Arron Banks has claimed he is ready to step back from politics following a bizarre select committee hearing where he taunted MPs, dismissed claims his Leave.EU campaign was funded by the Russians, and happily admitted lying to journalists in order to stoke up pro-Brexit stories.
“That could be our last day in politics,” the businessman, former Ukip donor, and founder of Leave.EU told the Guardian. “That could be the zenith.”
“From our point of view, the referendum stuff is slowly grinding towards a conclusion in the most painful horrible way,” he said. “We’re a bit exhausted.”
Banks said he currently has no intention to make good on his repeated threats to launch a new political party to replace Ukip but said he maintained close links with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. On Tuesday he stunned MPs by walking out of the fake news select committee hearing because he was late for lunch with Ian Paisley Jr.
“We’re still very friendly with the DUP and I still think [Nigel] Farage to enter parliament via the DUP is a viable option, they love him over there,” said Banks.
The businessman has always enjoyed attracting controversy and his comments could be treated with scepticism. He emerged from obscurity in late 2014 when he summoned journalists to his country house and pledged to donate £1m to Ukip. He became a close ally of then Ukip leader Farage and a vocal voice during the EU referendum as his Leave.EU campaign pushed increasingly extreme messages, ultimately leading to a meeting with Donald Trump just after his election as US president.
Banks said his relationship with the journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who ghostwrote his Bad Boys of Brexit diary, was a “bit frosty at the moment” after personal emails he provided for research reasons were leaked to the Observer, showing he met with the Russian ambassador three times.
“I spoke to Isabel Oakeshott and said, ‘the only place all of this could come from is you’. To which she said her emails have been hacked. Now it all lies in complete mystery. I’m not sure it warranted four pages in the Sunday Times.”
A Guardian News and Media spokesman said this week: “Our reporters were given access to documents which support these serious allegations in line with normal journalistic practice.”
Banks, who is married to a Russian woman, has Russian passports for his children and bought his wife the car numberplate X MI5 SPY, mocked suggestions he was part of a Russian plot to cause Brexit.
Instead he claims he spent one of his meetings with the Russian ambassador discussing former Leave.EU spokesperson Andy Wigmore’s time in Berlin during the Cold War.
“His dad was in the army and quite a senior spook who dealt with the Russians. The last spy handover was done by his father. That’s what we spoke to the Russian ambassador about.”
Wigmore also announced he intended to leave the UK for Belize this summer.
Banks, who said he would be taking a long break over the summer, concluded: “This Brexit stuff is all getting very tedious.”