Tory donors have initiated secret talks with Nigel Farage on an electoral pact which would see the Conservative Party not field candidates against his Brexit Party for seats in a potential snap general election, The Daily Telegraph reported.
With up to a dozen seats potentially left uncontested, the agreement would make sure that Brexit Party MPs would not fight Tory Brexiteers as well, while the Conservatives would not contend Metropolitan Labour seats in the north of England where Farage’s party is strong.
According to the report, two big donors have already raised the issue in talks with Farage and are expected to press the remaining two Conservative Party challengers on 22 June.
The media outlet cited a businessman familiar with the negotiations as saying that they were “very preliminary” and noting “you have to get Boris [Johnson] on board and that is going to be very tricky” until or if he’s elected Tory leader.
Meanwhile, Farage said on Sunday that he had been approached by “people” but stressed that his party is planning to contest every seat.
“I have had a couple of approaches from people saying ‘wouldn’t this be a good idea?’ To which I say ‘to do what? Just to keep the Tories inside Number 10 and us in the EU? I don’t trust any of them [the leadership candidates] to deliver a genuine Brexit and unless that situation changes, we are gearing up as an organisation to fight every seat in the country”.
UK PM hopeful Rory Stewart, who currently serves as the international development secretary, was among those who personally reached out to Farage, telling him on an LBC radio phone-in that the Conservative Party had to “find a way, as a party, of reaching out to you and bring you in to try to work out how we crack this, how do we get this [Brexit] through parliament”.
Farage, for his part, responded by saying that he would seal a deal with the devil to get a “proper Brexit”.
The alleged talks come as speculation is mounting that the next head of the Conservative Party will likely call a snap election as part of a plan to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union by the end of October 2019.
Assumptions that the two parties would sit down at the negotiating table were fuelled by a recent poll in the Sunday Times that put Farage’s party in first place on 24 per cent, three points ahead of the Tories and Labour on 21 per cent each.
Moreover, the news emerged shortly after Johnny Leavesley, the head of the Midlands Industrial Council, the Tories’ largest donor group, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that whoever took Theresa May’s spot “needs to be willing to work with Farage”.
“Many senior Tories would no doubt find alliance with the ‘Marmite Farage’ a repugnant proposition, but reality should force what could be a very convenient marriage. Farage knows he can’t win a General Election outright and many Conservatives will realise that is also their truth. A Brexit-Conservative Pact might lose the Tories much of their liberal-wing, but it would give clarity over Brexit and be the key to enough popularity to save them”, he penned.
Theresa May stepped down on 7 June as the leader of the Conservative Party as she came under great pressure from MPs over her inability to gain their support for the Brexit withdrawal agreement she negotiated with the EU. She will remain the country’s prime minister until a successor is elected in July.
Her resignation triggered a leadership contest: while there initially were ten candidates, the first round of the race knocked out three contenders, who failed to reach the threshold of 17 votes and saw Boris Johnson emerge as the front-runner.
The next prime minister will have to find a way out of the Brexit deadlock, as the final deadline for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has been set for 31 October.