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Don’t be cowed by Brussels, Rees-Mogg to tell ministers

The Tory backbencher will say the Government must ensure the UK can exploit the benefits of Brexit.

Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg will hit out at the Government’s “timid” approach to negotiations with Brussels.

In a speech to be delivered on Thursday, he will say ministers risked missing out on the benefits of Brexit by reducing the talks to a “damage limitation exercise”.

“The British people did not vote for that. They did not vote for the management of decline. They voted for hope and opportunity and politicians must now deliver it,” he will say.

“If we do not, if we are timid and cowering and terrified of the future, then our children and theirs will judge us in the balance and find us wanting. We have our future and our destiny in our hands.”

He will add: “For too long our negotiators seemed to have been cowed by the EU. Their approach seems to be that we must accept what the EU will allow us to do and build from there. This is no way to negotiate and it is no way for this country to behave.”

His onslaught comes after he clashed publicly with Brexit Secretary David Davis on Wednesday, warning that the UK would be reduced to a “vassal state” if it was obliged to follow EU law during a post-Brexit transition.

Speaking at Churcher’s College in Petersfield, Hampshire, Mr Rees-Mogg will say Britain will be unable to make the most of the opportunities that come from leaving the EU if it remains in “close alignment” with the bloc.

“The negotiations that are about to begin sound as if they aim to keep us in a similar system to the single market and the customs union,” he will say.

“Close alignment means de facto the single market, it would make the UK a rule-taker like Norway, divested of even the limited influence we currently have.

“Conformity with EU rules will also prevent us from making meaningful trade deals with other nations. No sensible nation would negotiate with the UK for a marginal gain when we would merely be a vassal of the EU.”

Remaining in the customs union would be even worse, he will say, denouncing it as “a protectionist racket that damages the interests of the wider economy”.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who chairs the influential Tory European Research Group, will argue that Britain needs to escape the shackles of EU regulation if it is fully to exploit new technologies such as artificial intelligence.

“It is all very well for UK ministers to extol the virtues of artificial intelligence and hi-tech as they are doing now, almost as we speak, amongst the panjandrums in Davos. But no-one will take them seriously if they do not have the ability to set their own regulations in this area,” he will say.

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