Brussels must be warned of cost of no-deal Brexit, says Rees-Mogg

MP calls for Theresa May to be ‘much firmer and clearer’ about bad consequences for EU

North-East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: “There is a problem with the House of Lords, which is it is very condescending towards the democratic vote. It seems to think that they know better than 17.4 million people.” Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

North-East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg: “There is a problem with the House of Lords, which is it is very condescending towards the democratic vote. It seems to think that they know better than 17.4 million people.” Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

 

Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Theresa May to ratchet up the pressure on the European Union by warning of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, particularly for the Irish economy. The North-East Somerset MP, who leads the European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit Conservative backbenchers, said the prime minister should be “much firmer and clearer” about the costs to the EU if Britain leaves without a deal.

“If we were to apply the common external tariff on Irish beef, the Irish agricultural industry is in serious trouble. You’ve got to ask the EU: does it want to sacrifice the economy of Ireland on the altar of EU ideology? My guess is that the answer is no, and therefore we are in a very strong negotiating position,” he said.

Mr Rees-Mogg was speaking at an event hosted by the think tank Open Europe as MPs prepare to debate a motion on Thursday calling for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU. Downing Street repeated this week that Ms May is committed to leaving the customs union but EU negotiators have rejected both of her proposals for a post-Brexit customs relationship.

Mr Rees-Mogg said the government should abandon one of its proposals, for a “customs partnership” that would see Britain collecting tariffs on behalf of the EU on imports bound for the European market.

‘Completely cretinous’

“It is completely cretinous. It is a silly idea. It wouldn’t work, it is impractical, it is bureaucratic, it would mean we are effectively in the single market. It is a betrayal of good sense,” he said. “I can’t understand why the government is faffing around with a system that nobody has looked at to see if it actually works.”

The House of Lords last week backed an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill calling on the government to explore the option of remaining in a customs union with the EU. The vote encouraged rebel Conservative MPs who have threatened to back an amendment to another Bill in the Commons next month that would oblige the government to seek to stay in a customs union.

Mr Rees-Mogg warned, however, that peers were “playing with fire” by taking a position he claimed was at odds with the will of the people as expressed in the Brexit referendum.

‘Playing with fire’

“There is a problem with the House of Lords, which is it is very condescending towards the democratic vote. It seems to think that they know better than 17.4 million people,” he said. “When it challenges the democratic will, as it is doing now, then we get fed up with it and think it has very little legitimacy and needs to be challenged. Their lordships are playing with fire and it would be a shame to burn down a historic House.”

Mr Rees-Mogg ruled himself out as a successor to Ms May, saying that the prime minister should be drawn from the cabinet but he expressed doubts about her commitment to Brexit.

“She is enacting the will of the people but it is hard to know what level of enthusiasm she is doing that with,” he said.