UKIP EU lawmaker Woolfe pulls out of leadership race and quits party

October 17, 2016 1:44 PM EDT

Steven Woolfe of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) smiles as votes are counted for the EU referendum, in Manchester, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Yates


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LONDON (Reuters) - The frontrunner to become the new leader of Britain's anti-EU UK Independence Party said on Monday he was withdrawing from the race and resigning from the party, less than two weeks after an altercation with a colleague left him in hospital.

UKIP, which played a key role in securing Britain's vote to leave the EU in June, has been plunged into chaos since, with high-profile party leader Nigel Farage stepping down after the Brexit vote and his replacement quitting after just 18 days.

Steven Woolfe, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, suffered seizures following the "altercation" with a colleague at a meeting about the party's future in Strasbourg earlier this month.

"It is with deep sorrow and regret that I am aborting my leadership campaign and announcing my resignation from UKIP with immediate effect," Woolfe said in a statement on Monday.

"I believe that a strong UKIP would hold this government's feet to the fire and make sure it delivers a clean Brexit. However, I have come to the conclusion that UKIP is ungovernable without Nigel Farage leading it and the referendum cause to unite it."

Woolfe said that he had been treated by doctors for seizures, partial paralysis and loss of feeling in his face and body following the events in Strasbourg, and that he had made a complaint to police about the incident, in which he alleged he "received a blow" from fellow UKIP MEP Mike Hookem.

Hookem has denied punching Woolfe.

Woolfe said UKIP was "riddled with infighting" and "proxy wars between rival camps" and that its national executive committee was not fit for purpose. Once his recovery was complete, he would sit as an independent MEP until Britain leaves the EU, he added.

When announcing his plan to run for the leadership, Woolfe had angered some in his party by admitting he had considered defecting to join Prime Minister Theresa May's ruling Conservatives.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)



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