The Daily Telegraph
Jacob Rees-mogg interview:
Jacob Rees-mogg on how Brexit is more important than anyone other than the Queen, while issuing a pointed warning to the PM
For Jacob Rees-mogg, the gloves are finally off. The newly appointed leader of a group of a 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPS is intent on ensuring that Theresa May delivers the Brexit that the public voted for. He tells The Daily Telegraph that both Brexit and the Conservative Party are more important than the Prime Minister’s leadership and warns that Britain risks heading for “Brino” – Brexit In Name Only.
“The less of Brexit you get, the more likely you are to get Jeremy Corbyn,” Mr Rees-mogg said. “If you get a good, clean Brexit, and get the advantages from it, then the chances of getting Jeremy Corbyn are much diminished.
“If everything is delayed for two years and then there’s ‘high alignment’, you will find that by 2022 no one will have noticed any difference from having left. Then what will be the point of voting for the party that’s implemented it? I’m against Brino.”
The Old Etonian insists that he backs the Prime Minister despite the mounting calls for her to quit. “The PM has my full support, he said. “May the PM live forever, Amen, Amen, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen.”
But in a pointed warning, he added: “If the Conservative Party doesn’t deliver the Brexit that the British people voted for, the Conservatives will not win the next election. The leader is important, but the party is more important. Brexit is more important than anyone other than the Queen.” The Prime Minister, he said, must be bolder on Brexit. Mrs May has repeatedly refused to say whether she would back the Brexit she is delivering in the event of a second referendum.
“My personal view is that if you are in favour of something, and if that is your policy, it’s helpful to say so,” Mr Rees-mogg said. “That’s what I would encourage her to do. It always makes sense to argue for the policy you believe in. Otherwise why on earth are you implementing it? But she does have to contend with other members of the Cabinet that don’t want to do it.”
He reserves his strongest criticism for Philip Hammond, who he says is intent on “thwarting” Brexit and doesn’t actually want Britain to leave the European Union. The Chancellor’s priorities are “perverse”. He’s jealous of Boris Johnson’s “charisma”, and the Treasury he leads is a “bruised” institution that is still struggling to come to terms with the result of the EU referendum.
Last week Mr Hammond attracted a furious backlash from Eurosceptic MPS and Cabinet ministers by suggesting during a speech in Davos that Britain will only make “very modest” changes to its relationship with the EU after Brexit.
In his interview with The Telegraph,
Mr Rees-mogg mounted his strongest attack on the Chancellor yet. “Of course he is wrong. High alignment denies us Brexit. It is about obstructing Brexit. It is essentially code for saying I don’t want to leave the EU, I never did and I don’t think I’m wrong. It’s thwarting Brexit.
“That is the aim, to thwart Brexit. You simply end up being tied into the EU’S rules without even having a commissioner, MEPS, attending the Council of Ministers or a judge on the European Court of Justice.
“With high alignment you are actually a vassal state. It’s not what people voted for, nor is it where the opportunity is. The people who want it are the corporatists, the fat cats. It’s why the CBI wants it.”
Asked about Mr Hammond’s intervention in Davos, Mr Rees-mogg added: “The dangers of the lack of oxygen and high altitude of Davos means people forget the manifesto and their obligations of collective responsibility. The Chancellor ought to support government policy. That’s his job.” Mr Rees-mogg’s intervention and assumption of the role of leader of the Eurosceptic European Reform Group is carefully timed. “Now the bill Jacob Rees-mogg, renowned for his impeccable manners and cut-glass voice is through the Commons and we are into the nitty gritty of the negotiation. It’s noticeable that the people who want to obstruct Brexit are making a lot of noise,” he said.
It comes at a critical juncture as the Prime Minister and her Cabinet debate the shape of a transition period after Brexit and the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
There are significant splits in Cabinet between those such as Mr Hammond and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, who are calling for high alignment, and Eurosceptics such as Michael Gove and Mr Johnson.
Mr Rees-mogg is adamant that if Britain is still subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, has to accept new laws and pay into the EU’S budget, it will represent a betrayal of Brexit. “It would be a lie to say we have left under those circumstances,” he said. “The negotiations going on now about what the implementation transition means are very important. Status quo transition would be a failure of negotiations, it would be a sign of weakness. We would not be getting the Brexit people voted for.”
He is keen to throw his support behind Mr Johnson, who last week was roundly rebuked by Mrs May and other Cabinet ministers for suggesting that Britain give the NHS an extra £100million a week from the “Brexit dividend”. The Chancellor was the first to criticise Mr Johnson.
He said: “The Chancellor, of course, has important priorities and the setting of the Budget is one. But if his order of priorities is perverse it’s not surprising other Cabinet ministers mention it. This isn’t Philip Hammond’s money. It’s your money, my money, the rest of the country’s money. It is taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Rees-mogg believes that Mr Johnson’s critics are motivated by “jealousy”. He said: “He is the one figure in British politics that people literally stop their cars, get out and shake him by the hand.” Asked if he was referring to Mr Hammond, Mr Reesmogg replied: “Why would you think that against a man of charisma and popularity? I can’t understand why Philip Hammond would conceivably be jealous of Mr Johnson when he is so noticeably charismatic himself.”
Caustic words from ‘The Mogg’
... on alignment
‘With high alignment you are actually a vassal state’
... on the Chancellor
‘I can’t understand why Philip Hammond would be jealous of Mr Johnson when he is so charismatic himself’
... on the Brexit negotiations
‘Status quo transition would be a failure ... it would be a sign of weakness’
... on May’s leadership
‘The PM has my full support. May the PM live forever, Amen, Amen, Hallelujah’