Jacob Rees-Mogg criticises budget and refuses to blame Brexit for economic woes

Jacob Rees-Mogg (PA Archive)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (PA Archive)

Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement, accusing him of taking the “easy option “of putting up taxes.

Amid concerns among some Tory MPs about the decision to raise taxes as the country is entering a recession, Mr Rees-Mogg said ministers should be seeking to cut spending through efficiency savings in public services.

“Taxation has got too high and there are issues with the level of expenditure that we have got,” he told Channel 4 News.

“I think there is a real problem with fiscal drag bringing more and more people into the 40p (tax) band who, particularly if they are living in the South of England, are not necessarily particularly well-off.

“That is going to be hard for them paying an extra level of tax on top of what they are already paying.

“Also freezing the basic band is going to be a burden for all taxpayers, even those who are still in receipt of benefit.

“I think we need to look at the efficiency of government to make sure money is well spent before reaching for the easy option of putting up taxes.

“What we actually need to be doing is having a strategy for growth and looking to lower taxes.”

When asked about Brexit having a 15 per cent impact on trade intensity with Europe according to the OBR, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Brexit is a huge opportuntiy for supply-side reforms.

“There are huge opportunities there.”

His comments will cause concern among ministers after another former minister, Esther McVey, warned she could not support tax rises if the Government continued to press ahead with the HS2 rail link.

Mr Rees-Mogg is a long-standing critic of Rishi Sunak. He quit the Cabinet when Mr Sunak became Prime Minister having previously described him as a “socialist” over his record of raising taxes when he was chancellor.

He insisted however that he still supported the Government.

“I am a Conservative Member of Parliament and I support the leader of the party. We’ve had three leaders in the last few months – it would be ridiculous to have another,” he said.

Ministers will however be concerned that his views may reflect wider concerns among Tory MPs, signalling potential trouble in the weeks and months ahead.