Brexit: Rees-Mogg plays down border fears as he joins DUP at party fundraiser
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg MP last night insisted there was no need for a hard border when the UK leaves the European Union.
The North East Somerset MP, who chairs the influential European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs, was in Ballymena to address a DUP fundraising dinner in the constituency of the party's controversial MP Ian Paisley. Also joining senior DUP figures at the event was prominent Brexit-backing businessman Arron Banks.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the dinner, Mr Rees-Mogg set out his position on the Irish backstop and the current Brexit negotiations. He called for a "sensible" deal with the EU and played down fears of a hard border between the UK and the Irish Republic after Brexit.
"Many people are concerned about the border issue, understandably, because it has been played by the European Union as one of the main obstacles to us leaving smoothly on the 29th of March," he said.
"The truth is that nobody wants a hard border.
"There is no intention on any side of having checks on the border. They are unnecessary.
"There is no threat to create that, and there is no issue of undermining the Belfast Agreement."
Turning to the issue of the EU's proposed backstop, which Parliament has rejected, the MP said: "The backstop question is tied in with the question of a hard border, and it is quite clear that there is nobody who is going to implement a hard border."
Asked if he understood the worries some people had about the possibility of border checks, Mr Rees-Mogg pointed out that there was already a border, and there were already customs checks.
"People seem to think that 'no hard border' means 'no border at all' - when there is already a border.
"There are two different countries - that is the thing to remember."
Saying he was delighted to be attending the fundraiser at the Tullyglass House Hotel, Mr Rees-Mogg offered his thanks to the DUP for its contribution to UK political life, and Brexit.
"I'm here supporting the coalition partners of the Conservative Party in Westminster, people with whom I have worked very closely in the whole Brexit debate.
"The European Research Group, which I chair, and the DUP have very similar views on many issues relating to Brexit.
"I should like to thank the DUP for what they have done to give the United Kingdom not only a Government since the election in 2017, but also rigour over questions relating to Brexit."
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson MP, who also attended the fundraising dinner, last night slammed Brexit scaremongering.
"People are being told that somehow or other the country is going to grind to a halt after the 29th of March when the truth of the matter is that things will go on normally," the East Antrim MP said.