Jacob Rees-Mogg blasts 'weak' Theresa May - and suggests she doesn't want to leave the EU
Jacob Rees-Mogg has launched an outspoken attack on Theresa May over Brexit, accusing the Prime Minister of “preparing for failure” and suggesting she may not be committed to leaving the European Union.
The influential Conservative Eurosceptic has been among the loudest voices to condemn a 'backstop' option agreed by Mrs May’s Brexit war cabinet last week which would potentially prolong elements of the customs union long after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of 2020 in a bid to solve the Northern Ireland border issue.
In a full-blooded attack on the Prime Minister, the Tory backbencher said that would reduce Britain to a “vassal state”.
Speaking on his Moggcast podcast for the ConservativeHome website, he said: "Inevitably it is disconcerting when the Government says one thing and then agrees to do another.
"In terms of these negotiations, particularly as they're led by someone who backed Remain, trust is very important. And it's very important that the Government maintains faith with those who voted leave.”
Mr Rees-Mogg added: "I fear we're getting to the point where you wonder whether the Government really wants to leave at all... I'm deeply concerned that the Government is not only not backing its avowed policy at the moment, it's deliberately undermining it.”
The Tory MP - who chairs the powerful European Research Group of Brexiteer Tories - accused ministers of “preparing for failure two and a half years before the point at which they ought to be ready”.
And he predicted that the Government was preparing to “kow-tow” before the EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier by siding with the backstop option.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I think it's a sign of abject weakness.... You've got to judge people ultimately by their actions rather than their words. Fine words are well known for not buttering parsnips, and we are not getting our parsnips buttered at the moment.”
But the Prime Minister's spokesman dismissed Mr Rees-Mogg's criticisms this evening.
He said: "You can see what's been achieved in the Brexit talks so far. We're making progress on securing a future relationship with the EU that will be in our interests and the interests of the EU."
Speaking during a visit in Cheshire yesterday, Mrs May also insisted that the backstop option remained a last resort for the UK - which has already rejected Brussels’ own proposals on the grounds that they will require Northern Ireland to stay in the regulatory orbit of the EU.
“The European Commission between December and March outlined their backstop solution," Mrs May said.
“That was unacceptable to the UK government. I think it will be unacceptable to any UK government because it effectively put a border down the Irish Sea.
“So, what we are proposing is an alternative backstop proposal. But nobody wants this to be the solution that is achieved.”
It is Mr Rees-Mogg's second attack on the Prime Minister in just 24 hours. On Tuesday afternoon he described Mrs May's flagship target of reducing net migration to less than 100,000 as "idiotic".