FORMER UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has resigned from the party over its political direction and association with Tommy Robinson.

In a letter, the north west MEP says that to put the former English Defence League (EDL) leader – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – ‘front and centre’ is a ‘catastrophic error’.

Paul follows former leader Nigel Farage, who also resigned from UKIP this week over Tommy Robinson’s appointment as a special political advisor for the party.

He said: “After much soul-searching over the past week, I have concluded that I must, as of today, resign as a member of UKIP. I do this with an immense amount of reluctance and regret, as I have worked tirelessly for the party for the past fourteen years.

“I am resigning because the party is being taken in a direction which I believe is harmful to Brexit. The association with Tommy Robinson will simply appal many moderate Brexit voters and inevitably be detrimental to the cause.

“The Tommy Robinson issue should have been shelved and debated within the party following Brexit; in line with the sensible decision taken by the National Executive Committee last month. The party leadership and my MEP colleagues have been aware of my views on this issue for some time. 

“Putting Tommy Robinson front and centre, whilst Brexit is in the process of being betrayed is, in my view, a catastrophic error. To conflate Brexit and Robinson at this crucial moment is to put the Eurosceptic cause in danger and I cannot and will not be party to that.

“I will continue to serve the north west of England in the European Parliament until my term expires.”

Paul, who is from Bootle, has been a member of the European Parliament for the north west since July 2009.

He served as UKIP’s deputy leader under Nigel Farage from November 2010 until September 2016, before become party leader two months later.

The former Conservative party member stood down as leader on June 9, 2017, after his party lost support in the General Election.