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Johnson rejects Trump’s advice to form General Election pact with Farage

The US president has said the Prime Minister and Brexit Party leader together would make an ‘unstoppable force’.

Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson (Joe Giddens/Jeff J Mitchell/Stefan Rousseau)
Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson (Joe Giddens/Jeff J Mitchell/Stefan Rousseau)

By Sam Blewett and Catherine Wylie, PA Political Correspondents

Boris Johnson has rejected Donald Trump’s advice of forming a Brexit pact with Nigel Farage in the pre-Christmas General Election.

The US president staged a major intervention by calling for the Prime Minister to team up with the Brexit Party leader to form an “unstoppable force” for the December 12 vote.

But the PM on Friday declined to take up the advice of his close ally, who had also waded into UK politics to deliver a criticism of Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal and Jeremy Corbyn.

Warning a vote for another party increased the likelihood of a Labour government, the PM told Sky News: “I’ve ruled out a pact with everybody because I don’t think it’s sensible to do that.”

The PM also rejected Mr Trump’s criticism of his Brexit deal which the president claimed would prevent trade with the US.

“I’m afraid I don’t wish to cast any aspersions on the president of the United States but in that respect he’s patently in error, anybody who looks at our deal can see that it’s a great deal,” he said.

And the PM apologised to the Conservative members who elected him as their leader for breaking his promise to deliver Brexit “do or die” by the Thursday deadline, which he was compelled to extend to January 31.

“It’s a matter of deep regret. All we need to do now is get on and do it,” he said.

Mr Johnson, in a separate interview with BBC News, welcomed the president ruling out the NHS being part of any trade deal but did not rule out expanding private provision within the NHS, which is a key battleground in the winter election campaign.

Earlier in the day, Mr Farage launched his party’s campaign with a call on the PM to ditch his deal and form a “Leave alliance” to deliver a “stonking majority”.

The long-standing Brexit campaigner threatened to field candidates in every seat in England, Scotland and Wales in a move Tories fear could damage their chances of electoral success by splitting the Leave vote.

Mr Farage said his party would form a “non-aggression” pact if the PM did scrap his deal and echoed the words of the president by saying the agreement would hinder trade with the US.

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Donald Trump and Nigel Farage (White House/PA)

The president’s extraordinary intervention came in an interview with the MEP on his radio show on Thursday.

“He has a lot of respect and like for you, I just wish you two guys could get together – I think it would be a great thing,” the president told the LBC show in a phone call.

The conversation was timely, coming the evening before Mr Farage’s campaign launch in Westminster.

Explaining his idea of a non-aggression pact, Mr Farage told the PA news agency: “There are seats in which we would not stand and there are some seats in which the Conservatives would not stand.

“In particular, old Labour seats that have never ever been Conservative, never ever will be Conservative, where there were Leave majorities in the referendum but they’re represented by Remain MPs.

“And they, for us, are our number one target.”

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Nigel Farage at the Brexit Party’s General Election campaign launch (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Steve Baker, a key figure as chairman of the European Research Group of hardline Tory Brexiteers, also rejected Mr Farage’s idea.

“It is completely inconceivable that the Conservative Party would now go for no-deal and a pact,” he told PA.

Contradicting the president, a No 10 spokesman denied the PM had discussed the deal with Mr Trump and said the agreement would not hinder trade.

“The PM’s deal takes back control of our money, laws and border, and allows us to do trade deals with any country we chose – including the US,” the spokesman said.

Mr Trump had said “under certain aspects of the deal … you can’t do it, you can’t do it, you can’t trade”.

Mr Corbyn criticised the intervention, saying the president was “trying to interfere” to “get his friend Boris Johnson elected”.

Also on Friday, ITV news said it would broadcast a head-to-head debate between Mr Johnson and the Labour leader on November 19.

PA

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