Nigel Farage claims pro-Brexit Conservative MPs have been phoning “every single day” for secret talks about withdrawing opponents from his Brexit Party in seats where the Eurosceptic vote might be split.
Boris Johnson last week shot down suggestions of a nationwide Tory-Brexit Party pact to maximise the number of pro-Brexit MPs in Parliament, but Farage says a number of Tory lawmakers are trying to make deals behind the prime minister’s back.
The Brexit Party leader told BBC Breakfast this morning: “I’ve got lots of them (Tory MPs) ringing me up every single day, and indeed the chairman Richard Tice, saying ‘‘Look, what do we have to do in order for you not to stand against us?’”
Farage might prove more open to a pact than Johnson if the PM pulled the plug on his Brexit deal.
Emphasising his desire for a no-deal withdrawal, Farage said: “The answer is quite simple: if they just say they would never vote for this appalling new EU treaty again, they want us to have a clean break from the European Union, a relationship based on trade and not on politics, then of course we are happy to talk to Conservative or indeed Labour MPs.”
Farage also told The Telegraph that he could be in the market for such political deals, saying: “My track record in the past is that I have done deals with Labour and Conservatives in the past and I am open for the right people to do the same again. I am not going to put the interests of the party above the interests of the cause.”
But not all of Farage’s colleagues are convinced. The i news site reports that as many as 20 candidates from the party have “quit in protest” at Farage’s opposition to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, with many having “called on Mr Farage to team up with the prime minister and accept the withdrawal agreement he negotiated with the EU”.
Here’s a look at how the Brexit Party could work with the Tories to get Brexit done:
How could the Brexit Party hand the Tories a majority?
Pollsters have suggested that if both the Conservatives and Brexit Party run candidates in some pro-Brexit marginal seats, it would split the anti-EU vote, potentially handing victory to pro-EU candidates from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
If the Brexit Party narrows its focus to Leave-voting seats with incumbent Labour MPs, it could boost the number of Leave-backing MPs in the House of Commons, without threatening pro-Brexit Conservatives.
Removing the threat of defeating Tory MPs, while inflicting losses on Labour, would boost the chances of the Conservatives winning an overall majority. This would leave Johnson with a pro-Brexit Conservative-led Parliament, increasing the chances of Britain leaving the EU.
A Brexit Party candidate is already reported to have withdrawn in Stone, the Staffordshire constituency of long-standing Tory eurosceptic Bill Cash, according to The Guardian.
Will it happen?
The Brexit Party is reportedly split over whether to narrow its scope, with party chair Tice in favour of running candidates in all 650 seats, says The Guardian.
But Farage, who is now on the campaign trail, appears to be playing coy regarding the strategy.
The Daily Mail reports that Tories “could lose up to 90 battleground seats” if Farage’s party fields 600 candidates in the 12 December vote.
But while Farage has said that there may be scope for pacts with individual Tory MPs, he has also rubbished claims that his party would allow Jeremy Corbyn into government.
“As things stand, we are the only people offering Brexit because Boris’s deal is not Brexit,” he said.
Referring to the 2015 election, when he led UKIP, Farage continued: “It was the Labour vote we hurt and if you look at my schedule this week and where I’m going, I think the five million Labour leavers are the most likely people to vote for the Brexit Party – that is our key target audience.”
A recent poll by the University of Bristol backs up Farage’s theory. Even among Labour voters who strongly identified as Leavers, just 12% rated their likelihood of ever voting Tory as 6/10 or higher. By contrast, 40% said there was more than a 6/10 chance that they would vote for the Brexit Party.