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UKIP pitches itself as 'true' Brexit party ahead of Euro vote

UK Independence Party leader Gerard Batten has been forced to defend the party's lurch to the right (AFP Photo/Isabel Infantes)

London (AFP) - Britain's archly-eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) launched its European election campaign on Thursday, claiming to be the "true party" of Brexit despite the launch of a rival group by former leader Nigel Farage.

UKIP chief Gerard Batten has been forced to defend the party's rightwards lurch under his leadership, which has seen it team up with former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson.

Batten said the May 23 vote would "inevitably be a re-run" of the EU referendum, saying that UKIP is the "authentic party of Brexit, the true party of Leave".

But he is at loggerheads with former UKIP leader Farage, who said the party had been "destroyed" by a "lurch towards extremism".

Farage's new group, the Brexit Party, is leading polls for the European elections despite only being launched last week, and has already drained UKIP of support.

Batten called for the "unilateral and unconditional withdrawal" from the EU, adding that the party and the referendum result were "not the province of one man".