By Benjamin Fox
(EurActiv) — Nigel Farage has mooted the prospect of an election pact with Boris Johnson’s Conservative party, but only if the Prime Minister “summoned the courage” to pursue a no deal.
Speaking on Tuesday (27 August), the Brexit party leader said that: “f Boris Johnson is prepared to do the right thing for the independence of this country, then we would put country before party and do the right thing”.
“We would be prepared to work with him, perhaps in the form of a non-aggression pact at the general election,” Farage told supporters at a meeting in central London.
“A Johnson government committed to doing the right thing and The Brexit Party working in tandem would be unstoppable,” he added.
This is the first indication that Farage’s new party would countenance some form of pact where the parties would agree not to stand candidates against each other to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote. Pro-Remain forces are likely to establish their own tactical voting pacts.
The Brexit party, which won the European elections just two months after its formation in March, unveiled another group of 75 candidates at the meeting, and says that it has already approved 635 candidates, almost enough to fight all 650 seats in the House of Commons.
Although the latest batch of candidates contains fewer high-profile names than the party’s European elections list, it does include singer Jay Aston Colquhounis, a former member of Bucks Fizz, who won the Eurovision song contest in 1981.
“The message today is simple: We Are Ready. “We are ready to fight a general election,” said Brexit Party Chairman Richard Tice.
A snap election is looking increasingly likely, with Johnson’s aides believed to be eyeing an autumn poll in a gamble to turn the modest poll boost that the Conservative party has obtained since Johnson took over the premiership from Theresa May in early July, into a governing majority. Johnson currently has a working majority of just one seat which relies on the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.
However, the Brexit party is continuing to poll at around 20%, and claimed most of its votes in the European elections from the Conservatives, who fell to fifth place.
“The Conservative party has lost so much trust that the only way they could win a general election is with our support,” said Farage.
Lawmakers return to the House of Commons next week, with opponents of a no deal Brexit vowing to ensure that Johnson is not able to bypass Parliament to force it through. Following a meeting convened by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday afternoon, opposition leaders agreed that they would only table a no confidence vote which, if successful, would trigger an election, as a last resort.
Though Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the bloc on October 31 without an exit deal if the EU refuses to scrap the Irish backstop which is designed to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland, he continues to speak publicly of pursuing a deal with the EU.
Despite the offer of an electoral pact, Farage has long been sceptical of Johnson who fronted the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign ahead of the 2016 referendum, and warned that unless the Prime Minister tore up the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between Theresa May and the EU which he described as “the worst deal in history”, his party would “fight you in every single seat the length and breadth of Britain.”