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Jacob Rees-Mogg may back May's Brexit deal - but DUP now preparing for 'long extension'

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (Steve Parsons/PA)
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (Steve Parsons/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Hardline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested he might now be forced to back Theresa May's deal if the alternative was no Brexit at all.

Commenting on his Conservativehome podcast, the European Research Group chairman said: "The Prime Minister will not deliver a no-deal Brexit."

Asked if that meant the options were now "deal or potentially no Brexit", he said "that, I think, becomes the choice eventually".

However, in another twist today, the DUP are reportedly prepared to stomach a long extension to the Brexit process rather than accept the deal.

Sky News is reporting that the DUP's 10 MPs are considering supporting the extension of Article 50 beyond the summer in the hope of forcing a change in leadership -  and that the Prime Minister will be replaced by someone who can get a different deal through Parliament.

Rees-Mogg's comments come after DUP MP Jim Shannon said it was beginning to look like the Eurosceptic ERG group, led by Mr Rees-Mogg, were more focused on Brexit than the Union.

Mr Shannon's comments mark the first sign of dissent between the DUP and the ERG who have worked closely together throughout the Brexit process.

Both groups had been strong opponents of Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal and repeatedly rejected the inclusion of the Irish border backstop clause.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday morning Mr Shannon said it appeared that some ERG members had changed their stance.

"Disappointingly, from their point of view, some of those seem to have filtered away over the night," the Strangford MP said.

Jim Shannon
Jim Shannon

"They've not all changed their opinion, but they maybe see Brexit as a greater issue than the Union.

"We see the Union as the big issue, as the priority and that's what we're focused upon."

Mr Rees-Mogg said that passing Mrs May's deal would be better than revoking Brexit.

"Whether we are there yet is another matter, but I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs May's deal, but Mrs May's deal is better than not leaving at all," he said.

The ERG chair added that "leaving the European Union, even leaving it inadequately and having work to do afterwards is better than not leaving at all".

Brexit may now need to be viewed as "a process rather than an event".

It was, he said, a "process of unravelling and diverging which will take time".

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