| 11.4°C Belfast

Staying in customs union after 2020 would be ‘utter disgrace’, says Rees-Mogg

The prominent Eurosceptic warned that a ‘Brexit in name only’ would lead to a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn.


Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Aaron Chown/PA)

Any attempt to keep Britain tied to EU customs rules on goods after 2020 would be an “utter disgrace”, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned.

Mr Rees-Mogg was responding to unconfirmed reports in The Times suggesting Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing to limit Britain’s ability to strike free-trade deals after Brexit in a bid to break deadlock in negotiations.

The chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of Eurosceptic Tories said any extension of the customs union beyond the end of the 21-month transition period following Brexit would be “the most serious breach of trust between the Government and the governed I can imagine”.

Speaking to a meeting of the ERG on the fringe of the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Mr Rees-Mogg claimed some Cabinet ministers had “very much left the door open” for the “super-Canada” option preferred by himself and Boris Johnson.

He even claimed Chancellor Philip Hammond was not ruling out a Canadian-style free trade deal, despite also warning: “There are some forces within the state that are desperate to stop (Brexit) and they seem to be centred around 11 Downing Street.”

Mr Rees-Mogg warned that a “Brexit in name only” – known to Brexiteers as Brino – would hand power to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

If the Times story was right, “that is not Brexit, that is Remain and it is an utter disgrace”, he said.

“Not only would it be a disgrace in terms of what I as a Leaver believe, it would be dishonourable in terms of what was promised to the British electorate. It would mean the manifesto I stood for Parliament on was not meant.”

Seventy per cent of Tory voters are committed to Brexit. They will feel deeply let down if Brexit is not delivered or if it is Brino - Brexit in name onlyJacob Rees-Mogg

If the customs union was extended in this way “it would open the door to 10 Downing Street for one Jeremy Corbyn … because Conservative voters would simply not turn out to vote”, he warned.

“Seventy per cent of Tory voters are committed to Brexit. They will feel deeply let down if Brexit is not delivered or if it is Brino – Brexit in name only.

“Those of us who get accused of standing too firm for Brexit and therefore making it easier for Jeremy Corbyn are not the ones who ought to be criticised, because what we are doing by keeping faith with the British electorate is ensuring the Conservatives can be in a position to win the next election.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said opponents of Mrs May’s Chequers plan can vote it down in Parliament without fear of triggering a general election which Labour might win, because fixed-term legislation meant it could not be treated as a confidence vote.

The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act “means people like me can vote against Chequers with a clear conscience”, he said.

Mr Rees-Mogg insisted he continues to support Mrs May as leader, although he criticised her for saying that Leave backers had “voted with their hearts” in 2016. “I don’t know about you, but I voted with my head as well,” he said.

He made clear he would favour tax cuts following Brexit, saying he wanted the UK to become not “a tax haven but a tax heaven”.

He said Brexit would not stop him drinking French wine, winning laughs as he recalled how his son had asked him: “Daddy, if we leave the EU where will you get your claret from?”

The meeting was held in a hotel outside the conference secure zone and did not feature in the official programme of events. Mr Rees-Mogg said the ERG’s room booking inside the conference centre was “mysteriously” cancelled when it became clear who it was for.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Top Videos