General Election

Johnson rejects Trump’s advice to form pact with Farage

The British prime minister also said “it’s a matter of deep regret” the 31 October Brexit deadline was missed.

995f63f3-f24b-47a9-a6cc-50d8225bc67d File photos of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. PA Images PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has rejected Donald Trump’s advice of forming a Brexit pact with Nigel Farage ahead of the UK general election.

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

However Johnson has declined to take up the advice of Trump, a close ally.

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

He also rejected the US president’s criticism of his Brexit deal which Trump 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.

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

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

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

Leave alliance 

Earlier in the day, Farage launched his party’s campaign with a call on Johnson 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.

MEP Farage said his party would form a “non-aggression” pact if Johnson scrapped his deal and echoed the words of Trump by saying the agreement would hinder trade with the US.

The US president’s extraordinary intervention came in an interview with Farage on his LBC radio show yesterday. 

“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 Farage in a phone call.

Explaining his idea of a non-aggression pact, 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.

Steve Baker, a key figure as chairman of the European Research Group of hardline Tory Brexiteers, also rejected 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 Number 10 spokesman denied Johnson had discussed the deal with 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.

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

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised Trump’s intervention, saying the US president was “trying to interfere” to “get his friend Boris Johnson elected”.

ITV News today confirmed it would broadcast a head-to-head debate between Johnson and Corbyn on 19 November.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week ruled out a pre-Christmas general election in Ireland. Speaking at Government Buildings on Wednesday, Varadkar said it was not in the best interest of the public to go to the polls at this time. 

“It is my prerogative to ask for a dissolution of the Dáil if I thought it was the right thing for the country. I don’t think it’s the right thing for the country, not with the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit,” Varadkar said.

It is understood that May 2020 remains his preferred date for a general election here.

With reporting by Órla Ryan 

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