Tories reject Nigel Farage’s election pact offer
The row comes as the Conservatives performed a major U-term to suspend fracking.
Nigel Farage’s threat to scupper Boris Johnson’s General Election chances unless the PM forms a Brexit alliance has been roundly rejected by the Conservatives.
Boris Johnson rejected the ultimatum and sought to defend his deal from Donald Trump’s criticism after the US president staged an extraordinary intervention to call on the Tories to form an “unstoppable force” with the Brexit Party.
The row on Friday came as the Government performed a major U-turn on years of support for fracking by halting the controversial practice in the face of a damning report.
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”.
If Mr Johnson does not agree, then the Brexit Party leader 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.
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 said Mr Trump was “patently in error” after the president claimed Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal would hinder trade with the US.
Mr Johnson was also forced to apologise to the Tory members who appointed him party leader for failing on his “do or die” promise to deliver Brexit by the Thursday deadline, which he was compelled to extend to the end of January.
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 the PA news agency.
Sir Bill Cash, the veteran Brexiter, described Mr Farage’s intervention as “very odd” and said many would question whether he wanted the EU departure at all over his tactics.
“The truth is you can’t get Brexit unless you have a majority in the House of Commons with a government that’s actually going for Brexit,” he told BBC’s Newsnight.
“The problem that the Brexit Party are going to face during the election is a lot of people are going to say to themselves: if they attack our marginals and look as if they are going to undermine our marginals, they are not actually seriously trying to go for Brexit at all.”
And in a move that will surely anger Mr Farage, No 10 sources were not rejecting a report in the Times that the threat of a no-deal Brexit was being taken off the table in the Tory manifesto.
The PM and his predecessor Theresa May have both repeatedly refused to rule out a dramatic deal-less departure, alluding to the threat being necessary for negotiating with the EU.
Mr Trump’s intervention came in an interview with Mr Farage 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.
In a move welcomed by campaigners, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the Government would “put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect”.
The U-turn on the Tory’s long-support of fracking came after research from the Oil and Gas Authority found it is not possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking.
The PM has previously celebrated fracking as appearing to be “an answer to the nation’s prayers” and called its critics’ reactions as “ludicrous” and “mad denunciations”.
But he has now followed Labour’s pledge for a ban and conceded he has “very considerable anxieties” about it, amid growing public opposition.
It is completely inconceivable that the Conservative Party would now go for no-deal and a pact Steve Baker
Labour’s shadow business and energy secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “The Tories owe the public an apology and an explanation of how much public money they wasted while ignoring the science.”
The climate crisis is one of the issues Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to focus on in the winter election campaign, with the party announcing a raft of measures including the creation of thousands of green jobs.
Meanwhile, Ms Leadsom signalled the upcoming manifesto will include tax cuts, though there was no mention how these would be paid for.
“A Conservative government will always be a tax-cutting government,” she told the Telegraph. “We will set out more in the manifesto about our ambition for income taxes.”
Also on Friday, ITV News said it would broadcast a head-to-head debate between Mr Johnson and the Labour leader on November 19.