Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has told Theresa May she must deliver the clean Brexit she promised or risk sparking a rebellion and collapsing the government.
“The Prime Minister said, as soon as she took office, that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and in the last election, in her personal contract with the British people, she declared that we would leave the single market and the customs union,” the North East Somerset MP wrote in The Telegraph on Monday.
The article, by the man widely seen as the leader of Tory Brexiteers and a potential future Prime Minister, represents his most stirring challenge to the Prime Minister yet and comes shortly before a crunch Brexit cabinet meeting later this week at Chequers.
Mr Rees-Mogg compares Mrs May’s plight to that of Sir Robert Peel, a Tory Prime Minister forced to quit after his party revolted over the repeal of the corn laws in the 19th century.
— MoggMentum (@MoggMentum) May 9, 2018
“At Chequers, the prime minister must stick to her ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ mantra, or risk splitting the Conservative Party like Sir Robert Peel,” he writes.
He said he and fellow Brexiteers, such as the 60 in the European Research Group (ERG), which he leads, are prepared to rebel against the PM in Commons votes on trade and customs, the Brexit “divorce bill”, migration, judicial powers, and fishing.
In a sign of Mr Rees-Mogg’s growing power in UK politics, wire service the Associated Press referred to him as a “senior Tory leader” this Monday – rather than a “backbench MP” as he has previously been called.
In the Telegraph article, Mr Rees-Mogg also repeated his criticism of anti-Brexit MPs who are talking up the issue of the Irish border for the purposes of keeping the UK tied to the EU’s Customs Union or even blocking Britain’s exit from the bloc altogether.
“There is no insurmountable problem concerning the Northern Ireland border and any solution which would split the UK in two is outrageous. That the EU suggested it is offensive,” he asserted.
Threatening a backbench mutiny, he warns Mrs May: “Any EU agreement that restricts the country’s ability to make trade agreements with other states, restricts our ability to control our migration policy, makes us pay to trade or interferes with our fishing waters could not be accepted.
“The cabinet should agree that if there is to be a deal it has to be agreed in detail prior to our departure.
“There is no legal reason to pay £39bn to the EU on our departure and if there were no guarantee of a trade agreement it is something I would strongly oppose in any vote in the House of Commons.
“Likewise leaving the EU into the purgatory of a perpetual transition would be foolish.”
Rees-Mogg’s insolence @Telegraph in lecturing & threatening PM is just too much. Risks debasing govt, party, country & himself. PM must be given maximum latitude & backing. The ideological right are a minority despite their noise & should pipe down. #totalsupportforMay&UK https://t.co/H5YQjaEDSI
— Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) July 2, 2018
However, Sir Alan Duncan, a Tory MP and the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, who is also Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s deputy, hit back on Twitter, accusing Mr Rees-Mogg of “insolence”.
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt added: “Enough. Just tired of this endless threat and counter threat. Why don’t we want the best for the U.K. than for our own ideological cliques?”
Tory MP Simon Hoare wrote: “He’s simply wrong in his predictions. The hectoring nonsense / blackmail has to stop, the reality of parliamentary arithmetic dawn and the calamity of a Corbyn Government woken up to.”