Jacob Rees-Mogg says Theresa May 'brinkmanship' will not force Brexiteers to back her deal
Theresa May has been warned that the prospect of delaying Brexit will not force eurosceptic Tories to vote for her EU deal.
In a major U-turn, the Prime Minister announced that if her deal is rejected by the Commons in the second meaningful vote next month, MPs will be given a vote on 14 March on extending the Article 50 process.
The dramatic move succeeded in avoiding a wave of resignations by ministers who had threatened to walk out unless the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, accused the Prime Minister of “brinkmanship” and insisted that he and his colleagues would still vote against the Withdrawal Agreement if she fails to secure changes to the Irish backstop.
“If the negotiations that are going on can change that within the next fortnight, then there is a chance that people will vote for her deal,” he told Sky News.
"But if the backstop remains unchanged, no. This brinkmanship, this effort of call-my-bluff is not going to change people's mind to back her deal."
He added: “If it's being delayed, which is my suspicion, as a plot to stop Brexit altogether then I think that would be the most grievous error that politicians could commit.”
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, another staunch Leaver, told the BBC’s Politics Live of the PM’s announcement: “It’s frustrating that the Prime Minister is talking about a delay when so many times she has really strongly advocated exit on 29 March.
"But whether there is or isn’t this short delay it doesn’t change the fundamental problems with the draft Withdrawal Agreement.
“The PM is not going to turn around the concerns that colleagues have with the draft Withdrawal Agreement just with the threat of a delay.”
Elsewhere, former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale said the PM should “stick to her deadline” while pushing for changes to the backstop.
“The whole history of the European Union has shown that time and again when there are intractable disputes agreement is actually obtained often late at night with about an hour to go before the clock runs out.”
The PM also faced criticism from pro-Remain Tories, with former attorney general Dominic Grieve saying only a second referendum would break the Brexit deadlock.
He said: “If this is to continue, how are we indeed to break the logjam and here I have to say to her, that her browbeating which she did today in dictating that unless we simply go along with a deal which is considered to be inadequate there is no solutions but a no deal Brexit or a unilateral revocation is simply inaccurate.”
Meanwhile, former Education Secretary Justine Greening said it was “abundantly clear” there was no consensus and the PM should stop “wasting more time repeating votes that we’ve already had”.
She said: “I do not believe it’s going to change and we can keep going round in circles with all the damage that does to businesses and jobs or we can confront decision it and find a route forward for Britain.”