Theresa May’s plan for a post-Brexit customs deal has been labelled ‘completely cretinous’ by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The leading backbench Brexiteer ridiculed the Prime Minister’s proposal to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU as pressure grew in Cabinet for her to dump the idea.
Rees-Mogg also lashed out at the House of Lords for trying to keep the UK in a customs union, warning that they were ‘playing with fire’ as unelected peers and risked ‘burning down an historic House’.
But Eurosceptic Mogg, who leads the hardline European Research Group of 65 backbench Tory MPs, was most scathing about the Government’s plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland by creating a ‘customs partnership’.
A favourite among some Tories to lead the party, he said the idea was “a betrayal of common sense” and described May’s negotiating strategy as “enigmatic”.
Cabinet ministers are set to meet on Wednesday to plot a rearguard action against recent speculation that No10 is preparing a compromise that could see the EU customs union continuing in some form.
Speaking at a Commons event organised by the Open Europe think tank, Rees-Mogg said the plan was “completely cretinous” and “impractical, bureaucratic”.
The proposal is one of two options drafted by the Brexit Department as the solution to the problem of ending the EU customs union while avoiding a ‘hard border’ in Northern Ireland.
Lib Dem MP and Best for Britain campaign member Tom Brake said: “Well, at least we can all agree on one thing: the Government’s idea for a customs partnership is certainly cretinous.
“But let’s be clear too that Jacob Rees-Mogg isn’t offering any genuine solutions to the British people, most recently demanding the Government play chicken with the EU over the Irish border question.”
Rees-Mogg’s threat to dismantle the Lords followed three big defeats for the Government in the past week as peers called for a continued customs union and EU human rights and workers’ rights.
But Labour’s Leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith hit back. “I think Jacob is getting a little bit over excited,” she told HuffPost UK. “All that has happened is that the House of Lords has voted to give the House of Commons an opportunity to further look at these issues. Why is he is so worried about that?”
Rees-Mogg also ramped up his warning that if the Republic of Ireland and Brussels failed to sort a good deal for the UK, London could slap tariffs of up to 70% on the Irish beef industry and ‘bankrupt’ it.
“If we were to apply the common external tariff on Irish beef, the Irish agricultural industry is in serious trouble,” he said.
Earlier this week, the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner and former Irish politician Phil Hogan said: “That’s why we’re very pleased in the European Union that we’re dealing with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, not with Mr. Rees-Mogg.”