‘Logical impossibility’: Tory backbencher on NI-EU alignment

Meanwhile Corbyn blames failure to reach agreement on ‘grubby deal’ with DUP

Jacob Rees-Mogg: “We cannot align the regulation of one part of the United Kingdom with the European Union.” Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Jacob Rees-Mogg: “We cannot align the regulation of one part of the United Kingdom with the European Union.” Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

 

Backbench Conservative MPs have warned Theresa May against agreeing to align regulation in Northern Ireland with that of the European Union after Brexit.

Speaking after a meeting of backbench MPs following the failure of talks in Brussels to reach a deal on the Border, Jacob Rees-Mogg said Conservatives agreed with the DUP.

“We cannot align the regulation of one part of the United Kingdom with the European Union,” he said. “If we align the whole of the United Kingdom then we haven’t left the European Union, so there is a logical impossibility of doing what the Irish Government proposes.”

Mr Rees-Mogg, a prominent Brexiteer who has been talked about as a future Conservative leader, said the prime minister could not agree to different regulatory systems in Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU. He suggested that the confusion surrounding the meeting in Brussels was caused by spin from Dublin.

“The Irish Government leaked a document which isn’t the case, as far as I can tell. It has caused everybody to be concerned. It was reported as if it was true, and now it turns out it was propaganda from the Irish Government,” he said.

Anna Soubry, a prominent Remainer on the Conservative backbenches, agreed with Mr Rees-Mogg in ruling out regulatory divergence, but suggested the answer was for the whole of the UK to stay in the single market and customs union.

“Nobody could want one part of our country to have a different set of rules to another part of the country. On that, Jacob and I are absolutely agreed. The sense in the room is that nobody wanted that. If we stay in the single market, that solves the problem,” she said.

Grubby deal

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the failure of the talks in Brussels demonstrated that Ms May’s minority government was incapable of successfully negotiating Brexit. “The real reason for today’s failure is the grubby deal the government did with the DUP after the election. It is disappointing that there has not been progress in the Brexit negotiations after months of delays and grandstanding. Labour has been clear from the outset that we need a jobs-first Brexit deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom,” he said.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that regulatory divergence would be good for Northern Ireland but that Scotland must also be allowed to align its regulations with the EU.

“Indeed, any special status for Northern Ireland would make a similar solution for Scotland even more vital. For Scotland to find itself outside the single market, while Northern Ireland effectively stays in, would place us at a double disadvantage when it comes to jobs and investment,” she said.

Earlier, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that his city, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, should also be allowed to decide on its own regulatory framework.

“Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded that it’s possible for part of the UK to remain within the single market & customs union after Brexit,” he wrote.