By Joe Harker
Nigel Farage has announced his Brexit Party will contest 600 seats across the UK at the upcoming general election.
They are a right wing party with a clear pro-Brexit stance, meaning they will appeal to many of the same voters the Conservatives are counting on to deliver a majority.
An alliance or some sort of pact might make sense but Farage has made the offer and been rebuffed by Boris Johnson. Is that the right decision?
Farage made the offer that he'd avoid opposing the Tories in constituencies where he could do serious damage to their chances of winning the seat just as long as he drops his Brexit deal and instead advocates leaving the EU without one.
On many levels a pact makes sense, the Tories and Brexit Party are fighting over the same part of the electorate and if Farage weakens Johnson too badly it could allow pro-EU parties a chance to form a government.
A non-aggression pact where the Brexit Party agrees to stay out of the Tories' way and instead targets Labour marginals they think they could win would be the political ideal for shutting down any chance of a pro-EU party forming a government.
Boris Johnson's Tories have no other natural allies and if they fail to gain a parliamentary majority it will be difficult for them to form a government if nobody wants to help them. The Brexit Party is offering to get out of their way and try to trip up Labour, it's something that would give Johnson a huge advantage.
It might also help Johnson regain some credibility among Brexit supporters. He promised them he'd take the UK out of the EU "do or die" on October 31 and failed to do that. Teaming up with Farage might convince them he's definitely going to get Brexit done this time.
The Counter Claim:
The great balancing act of a Tory prime minister trying to deliver Brexit is keeping multiple disparate factions within the party happy without leaning too far towards any one group, the result of which would send him tumbling away from others and bring the whole thing crashing down.
If he throws away his deal and agrees to Farage's demands many of his MPs could stop backing him.
The Tories want to leave the EU and many are willing to entertain the prospect of a no deal Brexit, but enough will hop off the Boris Johnson bandwagon if there isn't a deal to leave with.
Johnson is well ahead in the polls and many of their projections have him winning the majority he so desperately craves. Why would he ditch his deal and let Farage dictate Brexit to him if he can go it alone?
It's a gamble from the prime minister but likely a safer measure than letting the Brexit Party leader decide the Conservative policy on Brexit.
Farage could knock a few points off Johnson's lead in the polls according to UK polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice. The Brexit Party takes twice the number of votes off the Tories than they do from Labour, so they pose a danger of disrupting Johnson's numbers.
The Brexit Party leader's offer is one the prime minister absolutely can refuse. He's top of the polls and has a Brexit deal to stick in his manifesto for the election.
Johnson can make the strong argument that he doesn't need to listen to a politician whose party is hovering around single figures in the polls and acting like they get to dictate to the government the most important issue of the election.