Nigel Farage has called on the Tories to stand aside and give his Brexit Party a clear run in seats where they have no prospect of taking them from Labour.

After performing a major climbdown on Monday, announcing his party would not run in the 317 constituencies the Conservatives won at the 2017 General Election, the anti-EU MEP was on more characteristically bullish form on Tuesday.

He responded to calls from Conservatives for Brexit Party candidates to stand aside in Tory/Labour marginals by calling on Conservative candidates to reciprocate his move by giving the Brexit Party a clear run in Labour-held seats where they could "never win".

"I've just gifted the Conservative Party nearly two dozen seats and I did it because I believe in Leave," declared Mr Farage.

“Now, if they believed in Leave, what they would do is stand aside in some seats in Labour areas where the Conservative Party has not won for 100 years and will never win.

“What you're seeing from this reaction,” he argued, “is, for the Conservative Party, it is about them as a party, not about delivering Brexit."

The party leader stressed that he had taken a "difficult decision" to stand candidates down amid fears that it could split the Brexit vote, leading to a hung parliament and a second referendum.

However, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, argued that Mr Farage needed to "go further" if he wanted to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of No 10 and stand down candidates in Tory/Labour marginals.

The party leader's decision to pull his candidates came amid reports of secret talks between the Brexit Party leader and the pro-Leave Tory European Research Group.

They were said to have resulted in Mr Johnson issuing a video over the weekend in which he promised he would not extend the planned Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020 and that he would negotiate a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU.

The Brexit Party leader said that the comments represented a significant shift in the Government's position, giving him hope that it would deliver a true Brexit.

In a further twist, he claimed that he had been offered a peerage as recently as last Friday in an attempt to bring him on board.

Tom Brake for the Liberal Democrats said: "These talks show that Nigel Farage is pulling the strings behind the scenes. He is the puppet master in Boris Johnson's Brexit horror show.

"Every vote for the Conservatives is a vote for an extreme Brexit agenda backed by Nigel Farage," he added.

Meanwhile, Arron Banks, who funded Mr Farage's Leave.EU campaign, reportedly said at the Oxford Union: "What he’s done really is shape the Conservative Party in his own image. The Conservative Party is the Brexit Party.”

Last night, the SNP's Pete Wishart seized on the remarks, saying: "For once Arron Banks is right. The Tories have become the Brexit Party, shaping the party in the image of Nigel Farage and lurching ever further to the extremes on Brexit."