Minister for Brexit opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg. (Photo: John Sibley via Reuters)
Implementing red tape to deliver the government’s own Brexit deal “would have been an act of self harm”, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.
The Brexit opportunities minister’s admission come as the Tories dropped plans to impose further checks on goods entering the UK from the European Union.
The change means restrictions on the imports of chilled meats from the EU and border checks on plant and animal products will not be introduced in July.
Rees-Mogg said not pressing ahead with the new restrictions is “saving British businesses up to £1 billion in annual costs”.
When pressed about restrictions that would have actually “cost” £1 billion, and the idea pushed by ministers that post-Brexit checks were not going to be disruptive, he told an interviewer: “That’s why we are not adopting them. This would have been an act of self harm if we had gone ahead with it.”
The comments raise questions about whether Brexit will deliver the promised economic benefits of independence from the bloc, and whether the government was edging towards a position where it would unilaterally accept EU controls.
— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) April 28, 2022
— Karl Turner MP (@KarlTurnerMP) April 28, 2022
Jacob Rees-Mogg has said that the reason the UK government has decided to delay the next round of Brexit red tape is because it would be “an act of self-harm”. Write your own punchline, folks.
— Nick Tyrone (@NicholasTyrone) April 28, 2022
Wonder if it’s actually beginning to dawn on our Minister for a made up Brexit non-job that the self harm metaphor stretches a little bit further … https://t.co/oPeTRQdwp9
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) April 28, 2022
— Neale Richmond (@nealerichmond) April 28, 2022
Goods moving from the UK have been subject to checks in the EU since the Brexit withdrawal agreement was implemented on January 1, 2021.
Rees-Mogg said a “new regime of border import controls” will be established by the end of 2023.
The new border regime will apply equally to goods from the EU and from the rest of the world.
The government has vowed to have “the world’s best border” following the decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs union.
Port operators expressed frustration that time and money spent preparing for the new checks has been “wasted”.
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, which represents UK port operators, said: “Many ports have been working incredibly hard and have invested over £100 million of their own money to build a network of brand new border checks to meet the requirements the government has been insisting on for several years.
“This now looks like wasted time, effort and money to develop what we fear will be highly bespoke white elephants.”
On whether the UK would adopt EU controls, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “That is not the approach we are taking. We are using the flexibility that the UK government has to decide how and when to introduce this approach.
“We think there is more work to do on a new model that better utilises data and technology. We are still committed to introducing these checks.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.