UKIP leader Nuttall to stand in pro-Brexit stronghold in election

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UKIP leader Paul Nuttall leaves after television interviews during their campaign for the forthcoming General Election in Hartlepool

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall leaves after television interviews during their campaign for the forthcoming General Election in Hartlepool, Britain April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Scott Heppell

LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of eurosceptic party UKIP will stand in the constituency of Boston and Skegness in Britain's general election in June, the party said on Saturday, seeking to capitalise on strong pro-Brexit sentiment in the area.

Paul Nuttall will stand in the Conservative-held seat, and will test the extent to which the country's most eurosceptic areas trust British Prime Minister Theresa May's party with the Brexit process.

UKIP was a driving force in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, but has seen support nearly halve since the June 2016 referendum delivered the one of the party's main goals. The party currently has no elected MPs in parliament.

Boston, a town on England's east coast about 160 kilometres north of London, has seen a rapid rise in immigration in recent years, especially from eastern European EU member states.

More than 75 percent of residents in Boston voted "leave", the highest majority of Brexit voters in Britain. However, the current Conservative representative Matt Warman campaigned in last June's Brexit referendum to stay in the European Union.

May unexpectedly called a snap election in June to strengthen her hand ahead of negotiations with the EU, and Nuttall said he would ensure that the government would not betray residents during the talks.

"I will make it my mission to stand up for the people of Boston and Skegness and ensure there is no backsliding on Brexit," Nuttall said in a statement.

Nuttall was elected UKIP leader in November last year after Nigel Farage stepped down.

In February, Nuttall stood in a by-election in Stoke, another place that voted strongly to leave the European Union. However, he was soundly beaten by the Labour candidate and nearly fell into third place.

The Conservatives have a 4,000 vote majority in Boston and Skegness, where UKIP came second in 2015. UKIP would need a 5 percent swing to win the seat.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Toby Chopra)