TORY Brexiteer Mark Francois has accused Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage of trying to “blackmail” Prime Minister Boris Johnson – and warned: “You won’t get what you want by trying to take lumps out of us.”
Mr Francois, who is deputy chairman of the European Research Group, made his remarks hours before Parliament was dissolved in advance on the general election on December 12. The 54-year-old is seeking re-election as MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, the Essex constituency he has represented since 2010, having represented the Rayleigh seat for nine years before that prior to a boundary shake-up.
He was responding to Mr Farage’s pledge to run candidates in all 650 constituencies in the UK.
Mr Farage proposed a Leave alliance with the Tories – provided Mr Johnson agrees to ditch the deal he brought back from Brussels last month in favour of a so-called “clean-break” Brexit.
Speaking to Express.co.uk at an evening reception at the Gherkin in central London hosted by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, he said: “I fear Nigel Farage has gone about this in the wrong way.
“If he really wants an alliance with another party, you don’t kick it off by trying to blackmail them.
“At the end of the day, most Conservatives and Brexit Party supporters want the same ultimate objective, which is to leave the European Union.
“And so it makes no sense for them to try and take lumps out of us when the Prime Minister and his party are seeking to achieve what many many Brexiteers have wanted for most of their adult lives.”
Speaking at the launch of the Brexit Party’s election campaign last week, Mr Farage – who subsequently confirmed he would not be standing as an MP himself – told reporters: “I will say this to Boris Johnson: drop the deal because it is not Brexit, drop the deal because, as weeks go by and people discover what it is you will have signed up, they will not like it. This is not Brexit.”
“He is trying to sell a second-hand motor where he has polished up the bonnet but actually, underneath, nothing has changed, and it is Mrs May’s appalling surrender treaty.”
Mr Farage urged Mr Johnson to abandon transition arrangements or hopes of long-term political alliance with the EU and instead pursue a free trade deal.
He said Mr Johnson must set a July 1 exit deadline and leave under basic World Trade Organisation terms if such a deal could not be agreed.
Mr Johnson swiftly ruled out dropping his Brexit deal.
He told ITV: “What we’ve got is a fantastic deal that nobody thought we could get. We can put that deal through.”
The Brexit Party is widely regarded as representing a threat to Mr Johnson’s hopes of winning an overall majority next month.
ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins last week suggested the Tories would begin to get nervous if the Brexit Party was regularly polling in double figures.
YouGov’s most recent poll, commissioned by The Times, based on 3,284 interviews carried out between November 1 and 4, indicated the Tories have a 13 point leader over leader – but puts Mr Farage’s outfit on 11 percent.
Meanwhile Brexit Party candidate for Peterborough Mike Greene struck a defiant note after revealing he had received calls from Tory Party activists asking him to stand down.
He told Express.co.uk: “They are clearly terrified of us and this is part of a desperate strategy to try to lock this down now.
“They know that over the next week or two Boris’s sellout deal will be exposed for precisely what it is.”
If he really wants an alliance with another party, you don’t kick it off by trying to blackmail them