UKIP has chosen not to stand in five Sussex constituencies to avoid inadvertently helping “anti-Brexit” candidates getting elected.

The party has chosen not to field candidates in Hove, Brighton Kemptown, Lewes and Eastbourne to ensure they do not take votes away from Conservative candidates in close-run races with pro-EU candidates.

Ukip’s East Sussex chairman Keith Riddle denied the party was finished despite a disastrous local elections where they lost all 16 Sussex county council seats.

Mr Riddle admitted leader Paul Nuttall had struggled to follow in the footsteps of Nigel Farage and backed the MEP to return as party leader in the future.

Nationally the party said it would not stand against Conservative candidates with strong Brexit credentials but Ukip will challenge prominent Leave campaigner Tim Loughton in East Worthing and Shoreham.

Mr Riddle said: “We are not standing in Hove because the Labour MP is anti-Brexit and while the Tory candidate is not necessarily pro-Brexit, she would be part of the ruling party and would have to toe the line. In Lewes, Maria Caulfield has a very slim majority and will have trouble with a very large anti-Brexit vote so we will give her every opportunity by not standing against her.

“We are looking to support Brexit, we don’t want that upset by anti-Brexit people any more. There are people who say if Theresa May gets a big majority she might start backsliding on Brexit but to try and control how big a majority she will get is not really possible, that is down to the electorate.”

This month’s council elections had some in the party questioning whether Ukip has a long-term future having achieved Brexit but Mr Riddle is confident of a better showing at the General Election with the party hoping to retain the second positions they achieved in 2015 including in Wealden and Bexhill and Battle.

Mr Riddle said: “We have completed the task after 25 years, that’s job done. But along the road we found a lot more problems with the system. Once we’ve got this election done we can start looking at those. We are not finished, not by a long shot.

“We have got to come back with new policies and new leadership throughout the party.

“We have a lot of people who will never go back to another party now.”

Mr Farage declined to run at this general election and has forged out a career as a US cable news pundit but Mr Riddle believes the three-time leader will return to take the job again.

He said: “He [Paul Nuttall] hasn’t been able to do what Nigel has done. He put everything into what he did and then stood aside which was quite right, he needed a rest. “Once he has had a break from it, he will be back again.”

West Sussex chairman Mike Glennon said: “In Ukip we will be selective as to where we put campaign, fighting strongly in constituencies where the candidates of other parties clearly favour EU subjugation of UK sovereignty. On the other hand, where an incumbent MP is already a confirmed Brexiteer, we would tread more lightly and in some cases not field a candidate at all.

“During the campaign period it is vital that Ukip are on the platform of debate where necessary, urging voters not to be seduced by the fantasies of the Remainers and definitely not to vote for those parties advocating a sell-out to Brussels.”

Labour’s Peter Kyle said: “Ukip have stood down because they have everything they want in my opponent. She will do their bidding and push for a brutal Brexit which prioritises getting out of the EU above getting it right. I will continue with the strong leadership our community needs, having set tests that will protect our economy, tourist industry and universities.”