Now that UK PM Boris Johnson has locked down the votes to call for a general election in December, it appears he's moving on to the next step: ensuring that, even if his Tories can't secure an outright majority (which would have been a stretch even before the September expulsions) that they come back with enough votes to push through his Brexit deal.
Johnson reportedly has enough votes to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, so long as he allows MPs sufficient time to scrutinize it (since they objected to his attempt to fast-track the process). However, instead of prioritizing another Brexit Deal vote, Johnson is hoping to hold the next general election first, largely for political reasons (former Tory Philip Hammond has accused Johnson of deliberately pushing out moderate independents and encouraging "entryism" by far-right candidates better aligned with Johnson's agenda, per the Guardian).
And that's where Nigel Farage and Brexit Party come in. According to the FT, BP is reportedly considering pulling out of races for 100s of seats, and focusing instead on 20-30 Leave-supporting constituencies currently held by Labour MPs, in the hopes of turning even more seats into supporters of Johnson's Brexit deal (or even leaving without a deal, the party's favored position, and something that Johnson has said in the past that he would support).
It's simple political arithmetic. If two pro-Brexit candidates run in the same district, they risk splitting the vote and handing the race to Labour or another opposition MP. Pollsters have reportedly been warning both Johnson and Farage about the possibility that, without a deal, Jeremy Corbyn would be PM before Christmas.
And that's something nobody can live with.
Still, Brexit Party insiders insisted a deal could create complications for Farage, who is coming in hot after his party's stellar performance during the EU Parliamentary races back in May, and is facing pressure to quickly replicate that success. Ironically, those MEPs would all need to vacate their seats once Brexit has been delivered.
It's unclear still, whether Farage will run during the upcoming vote. He has reportedly told friends that he's leaning toward not running. Some advisors have argued that if Farage runs (in what would be his eighth attempt to hold a seat in the Commons) and wins, then he would be locked into focusing on one district instead of managing the Party's broader agenda.
Here's the FT:
"Much of the Brexit party vote rests on his personal following,” said one party insider. But a Brexit party spokesperson dismissed the suggestion of Mr Farage not standing in the election as “wild speculation”.
Of course, the Tory expulsions will no doubt come in handy for Johnson by allowing him roughly two dozen seats that he can trade away to Farage, possibly in exchange for Brexit shifting their candidates to focus on Labour-held districts.