Rees-Mogg: EU isn’t prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit and UK should not hand cash to Brussels without a trade deal

Rees-Mogg: EU isn’t prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit and UK should not hand cash to Brussels without a trade deal

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told a packed audience last week that the EU was not ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and that Britain should not be offering it money for nothing.

The influential Brexiteer also criticised the Treasury for failing to plan after delivering a lecture in the state rooms of the Speaker of the House of Commons on Monday night, the text of which was published yesterday on BrexitCentral.

During the Q&A he pitied “the brave soul” who would have to ask Chancellor Merkel for another couple of billion euros to pay for the schemes that the British were going to pay for if Britain didn’t cough up £39 billion.

Rees-Mogg, who chairs the European Research Group of eurosceptic Conservative MPs, cautioned against being “cavalier” with taxpayers’ money and suggested that the Government “simply won’t come to Parliament” with a proposal to pay the financial settlement without solid agreement of a trade deal in return.

On preparations for leaving without a deal, he said a lot of it was “our decision” and criticised news reports that we couldn’t import medicines after Brexit:

“Who decides what imports come into this country once we’ve left the EU? We do. Are we really going to stop imports of medicines that we need in our hospitals just out of stubbornness?”

Whilst he praised the Department for Transport for being “way ahead” with contingency planning, he said the Treasury had a lack of enthusiasm for making such preparations.

The Somerset MP said we should not be frightened of WTO terms which are “already very efficient”. He said the Maximum Facilitation option for customs arrangements was “a sort of WTO plus system” which should be abandoned in favour of WTO rules if it complicated things.

But he criticised the Government for negotiating the detail before looking at the situation as a whole:

“We’re in the weeds rather than the big picture. The deal is very simple, they wan’t our money and we want a trade deal. Why don’t we bring it together and agree it? In normal negotiations, you settle the big picture first and then you decide whether you’re keeping the curtains. And all we’re doing is not just deciding on the curtains but the curtain hooks – and we need to be deciding on whether we’re buying the house.”

On future relations with the EU, Rees-Mogg said Brexit had the potential to improve things, particularly with the French on defence:

“Whilst we’re in the EU, we’re a sort of running sore. We’re always saying no to their new projects… once we’ve left we have enormous commonalities of interests with the individual nation states.”

He said he was happy to criticise the EU whilst we are still members, but would wish it “every success” once we are no longer a Member State. He said he would have to stop being rude about the bloc and joked that he would tell them they are “lucky to have that nice Mr Juncker as one of their many Presidents”.

He added that “upsetting” and “bothering” Brussels once we have left would not be in our national interest.

Meanwhile he said that the Republic of Ireland was “making a great mistake” by allowing itself to be played by the EU: “I doubt it will lead to a united Ireland, but does Mr Varadkar want a United Ireland? I think most Irish Prime Ministers do”.

When asked about the current state of play in the Brexit process, the Conservative MP conceded that Brexiteers should have continued campaigning after the referendum.

He said before the referendum Remainers didn’t really seem to mind leaving the EU but after the result became passionate about remaining in the EU.

“Those of us on the Leave side need to be putting our argument more clearly as to the benefits of leaving and of free trade,” he concluded.