Jacob Rees-Mogg has denied MPs issued Theresa May with an “ultimatum” over the Government’s plans for a ‘customs partnership’ with the EU.
Mr Rees-Mogg has rejected the ‘deeply unsatisfactory’ proposal – which would keep existing EU tariffs – saying it would effectively keep the UK in the EU.
But he denied issuing the Prime Minister with an ultimatum, telling BBC Radio 4: “We’re not in the business of making threats, we’re very much supporting the prime minister and getting Brexit through. The House of Lords has been trying to stop Brexit with some of its amendments”
“There is no question of there being an ultimatum,” he said, “This is a paper that has been produced on a specific aspect of policy that would not work – it would not effectively take us out of the European Union, it would leave us de facto in both the customs union and in the single market.”
Members of the European Research Group, chaired by Mr Rees-Mogg have outlined their opposition to such a plan in a 30-page report, reportedly telling Mrs May they will not support it in Parliament.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis are also said to be opposed to the idea.
A Brexit “war cabinet” will see Mrs May try to convince Brexiteers of the merits of the plan.
Latest on Brexit at Yahoo News UK
- Who are the five key players at the heart of Brexit with one year to go?
- Timeline: Here’s what we know about Brexit in 2018
- This is why (some) Brexiteers hate the House of Lords
- Just ONE per cent of Britons think Brexit negotiations are going ‘very well’
- What are the odds of a second Brexit referendum?
Mr Rees-Mogg, who previously branded the idea “completely cretinous”, said: “This customs partnership is one of those clever ideas that sounded plausible when first looked at and when the detail is examined turns out to be deeply unsatisfactory, flawed and will not get us out of the European Union, which is what people voted for.”
But he insisted it was “inconceivable that I would support a vote of no confidence” in Mrs May’s government.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has reportedly thrown his weight behind the customs partnership proposal.
Under the plan, Britain would collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf at ports and airports, passing on a share of the cash to Brussels.
If the UK decided to set different tariffs from its European neighbours, traders would claim refunds from HM Revenue and Customs for goods which stay in Britain.
Brussels is apparently concerned both by the prospect of “porosity” on the EU’s external border and by the risk of creating a precedent which might be copied elsewhere, while Tory Brexiteers fear the scheme could indefinitely trap the UK within the EU’s customs arrangements, as well as being expensive and complicated to operate.
In a message to Mr Rees-Mogg and his Eurosceptic allies, Tory MP Vicky Ford told the Today programme: “We should not tie the hands of the Government at this stage of the negotiations” and “we should allow them to continue those negotiations without holding guns to their heads”.
She insisted “the customs partnership is not intended to keep us in the customs union or the single market by the back door”, adding: “It would be an issue of resolving the issue on the Irish border, the need to have no border in the Irish Sea and to give easy, frictionless trade between the UK and the rest of Europe whilst also enabling our own trade policy with other parts of the world.”