Sajid Javid has refused to rule out a pact with the Brexit Party in a general election, but insisted the Conservative Party does not “need” electoral alliances.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show following the announcement of Amber Rudd’s resignation on Saturday evening, the Chancellor was asked whether he would feel comfortable working with Nigel Farage after striking an election deal.
Mr Javid said he supported holding a general election despite “sad” timing, saying: “We absolutely now need an election. It is being forced on us because Parliament is trying to kneecap these negotiations.”
He was then asked five times to publicly rule out a pact with the Brexit Party, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to have privately ruled out.
Mr Javid said: “We don’t need an electoral alliance with anyone. We can stand on our own two feet, put our message across.
“The picture our opponents are painting of us, of course they would paint a false picture. We are a proud centre-right, moderate, one-nation party.
“There is nothing extremist about wanting to meet the will of the British people on a simple question which was ‘Do you want to leave the EU or not?’
“We are not in an election yet. I am clear we do not need an alliance with anyone.”
Brexit Party pact
Mr Farage has publicly offered a non-aggression pact between the two parties, citing the Conservatives’ substantial losses in the 2019 European Parliament elections.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Brexit Party leader said the offer was “100% sincere” and would help return Mr Johnson to Downing Street.
He wrote: “Johnson should cast his mind back to the European elections in May, in which his party came fifth, and ask himself: does he want the Tories to find themselves in a similarly disastrous position when the results of the next general election come in, or does he want to sign a non-aggression pact with me and return to Downing Street?”
Mr Javid’s refusal to preclude a pact has been criticised by the opposition.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Tricket said: “The Tories are refusing to rule out a grubby deal with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party because they know he supports all their cuts to public services and the sell-off of our NHS to Donald Trump.
“Farage wants to keep Boris Johnson in power so the Tories can continue to wreck our industries and our jobs as they have always done.
“Once Johnson’s disastrous no-deal is off the table, we need a general election so we can bring an end to the rigged economy and this Tory Government for the super-rich.”
No mandate for no-deal Brexit
Expelled Conservative MP Sam Gyimah also criticised his former party for purging moderate MPs as an election strategy to avoid a Brexit Party pact.
Speaking to John Pienaar on Radio Five Live, he said: “What tipped Conservative MPs over the edge this week was the realisation that the Government was playing games to run down the clock and deliver a no-deal Brexit for which it has no mandate, and that is scandalous.
“I know there is a serious level of disquiet about what the Government is doing, not just in terms of no-deal but an explicit attempt to purge the Conservative Party of moderate MPs because they see that as the way to steal the Brexit Party votes from underneath Nigel Farage.
“If the Conservative Party can become more like the Brexit Party, then they hope to be able to get his votes without a pact.”
Said Javid also refused to rule out defying parliament and the rule of law now a bill to prevent Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal without first asking for an Article 50 extension has passed through the House of Lords.
Boris Johnson has written to Conservative MPs suggesting he will not ask the EU for an extension despite the legislation that requires him to. The moderate Conservative MPs who have lost the Tory whip say there is no evidence that he has attempted to offer the EU any alternative to the backstop he objects to in the Withdrawal Deal that Theresa May negotiated.
Boris Johnson, in comments made to the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Express, said he would not ask the EU for an extension to Article 50.
“Let’s be clear what is going on in Parliament – there is a group of MPs, led by [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn, who simply want to block Brexit,” he said.
“They want to stop this country from leaving on October 31, so they are trying to wreck the Government’s negotiations. They would force this country to accept ever more dither and delay.
“I refuse to accept Corbyn’s pointless delay.”
Andrew Marr and anyone watching his BBC politics show would have been baffled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer simultaneously insisting that “this government, of course it will obey the law,” and yet that Boris Johnson “absolutely will not ask” for a Brexit extension if he has not negotiated a deal in time, as legislation requires hime to.
Boris Johnson could go to jail
In advice from “leading QCs” to shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and seen by The Observer newspaper, the top barristers said: “If the Prime Minister refused to comply with this order then, while we would be in historically uncharted political territory, the legal position would remain clear – the Prime Minister would be in contempt of an order of the court and would be exposed to a full range of sanctions.”
One of the QCs consulted, Philippe Sands, said the former London mayor could even go to jail if he fails to respect the will of Parliament, but concluded it was more likely he would be ousted from Downing Street.
“He will comply or leave office,” said Mr Sands.