British Prime Minister Theresa May could be under pressure to give extreme Eurosceptic Nigel Farage a key role in Brexit negotiations if she strikes an alliance deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), according to new reports.
Senior figures in the DUP have told May that she should keep Farage close and allow him to contribute to EU talks in an effort to prevent him from returning to the helm of UKIP, the party he once led, and launching a counter-campaign against her Conservative party, sources told the Sunday Times.
The figures have also suggested that Farage’s suspected return to UKIP could be abated with the promise of a peerage. Farage is said to have been in talks with Arron Banks, one of the party’s biggest donors, on Friday to discuss the future of UKIP, one of the Conservative’s closest competitors.
“They hold a few cards,” the source said. “They want Farage as a lord or a role in government or he and Arron will put something together that will cause trouble for May.”
Farage stepped down as leader of UKIP following the U.K.’s 2016 EU referendum in which he and his party were instrumental in driving the leave campaign. Speculation over his possible return to the political spotlight remerged on Friday, however, in the wake of the U.K. election, which saw a devastating defeat for UKIP and in particular its leader Paul Nutall, who failed to be elected.
Farage said on Friday that he would have to return to politics if Britons’ decision to leave the EU was not effectively implemented. On June 23 2016, the U.K. voted by a majority of 51.9 percent to leave the EU.
“If Brexit (which the) British people voted for gets betrayed, I would have no choice but to throw myself back into full-time campaigning,” he told CNBC.
He has since said that May had been “fatally damaged” by the U.K. election result, in which her party lost its parliamentary majority, and would not last much longer as prime minister.
“I think she has to go,” Farage told LBC radio on Monday.
“If it’s going to be a Brexit government, then someone who believes in it must be in position.”
May is currently in talks with the DUP over a possible “confidence and supply” deal, which will see the DUP’s 10 members of parliament provide backing for the Conservatives’ 318, and provide May with a working majority.
The appointment of Farage could be a necessary pill for May to swallow if she is to strike a deal and drive ahead with her intended hard Brexit. She will need a parliamentary majority in order to pass through her policies and is expected to face heavy opposition from Labour MPs, whose numbers grew notable in Friday’s election.
The DUP are known to have had close links with Farage for a number of years. However, his hard line stance on the EU is likely to also create friction within the DUP, whose leader Arlene Foster is vehemently against a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a separate EU member.