Jacob Rees-Mogg has said it is “ridiculous” to suggest he could challenge Theresa May for the leadership of the Conservative Party - but warned her to get tougher with Brussels.
The backbench Brexiteer said the prime minister was “the most impressive and dutiful leader that this country has had”.
During an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning, Rees-Mogg was asked if there were “any circumstances” in which he would try to oust May.
“I don’t wish to be prime minister. I am very happy being a backbench member of parliament,” he said. “Of course I wouldn’t challenge Teresa May, that is a ridiculous idea.”
But Rees-Mogg, who leads the powerful European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteer Tory MPs, said May should be “stronger” in her negotiation with the EU.
“We are paying a very large amount of money, £40bn, and in return we want a trade deal,” he said.
“We should say quite clearly if we don’t the trade deal we want, you don’t get the money.”
The prime minister faces a showdown with MPs next month over her decision to rule out membership of the single market and customs union when the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is expected back in the Commons.
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, told ITV’s Peston on Sunday he wanted to “draw in” enough pro-EU Tory MPs to defeat the government. “We think there is a majority for a form of customs union in parliament,” he said.