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.
Asked if he would form an alliance with Mr Farage, the PM told the BBC: “Now the difficulty about doing deals with any other party is that any other party, or voting for any other party, simply risks putting Jeremy Corbyn into No 10.
“And the problem with that is that his plan for Brexit is basically yet more dither and delay.”
A Number 10 source confirmed that this explicitly meant no deals with the Brexit Party.
“The PM is clear that only a vote for the Conservatives will deliver not just on the Brexit deal but on the priorities people care about,” the source told the PA news agency.
Mr Johnson, although welcoming the president for ruling out the NHS being part of any trade deal, was forced to defend his Brexit agreement from Mr Trump’s criticism.
“What I’m telling you is what everybody can see from the terms of the deal that we did, which is a great deal, not just for business and for families but it gives this country certainty, it means that if we can get it over line by, with this election, in the middle of January, then we’ll have it done,” the PM said.
But, when asked, he 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.
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 PA: “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 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.