Brexit: Jacob Rees-Mogg urges Theresa May to suspend parliament if MPs back plans to block no-deal exit

Leading Eurosceptic dismisses speculation that he is softening towards the prime minister’s deal

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 23 January 2019 15:49
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Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Theresa May to suspend parliament if attempts to thwart a no-deal Brexit are successful.

The hardline Brexiteer suggested Ms May could “prorogue” parliament if a backbench bill tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles to block a disorderly Brexit is backed by MPs.

Mr Rees-Mogg also dismissed speculation that his Eurosceptic cabal of Tory backbenchers were softening their stance towards the prime minister’s deal, insisting: “As long as the backstop is there, I won’t vote for this deal.”

Last week more than 100 Conservative MPs voted to defeat Ms May’s blueprint, giving the prime minister little time to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU.

Mr Rees-Mogg told a meeting of the Bruges Group of Tory Eurosceptics that the efforts by backbenchers to drive parliamentary business were a “constitutional outrage”.

He said that no deal could only be taken off the table if the government “connived in doing it”. He added: “If the House of Commons undermines our basic constitutional conventions then the executive is entitled to use other vestigial constitutional means to stop it.

“By which I basically mean prorogation ... And I think that would be the government’s answer, that is the government’s backstop, to use a choice phrase.”

Prorogation is the time between the end of a parliamentary session and the state opening that marks the beginning of the next session. Under these circumstances, any pending legislation would fall, including Ms Cooper’s bill.

Ms May refused to discuss suspending parliament when pressed on the issue by Brexiteer Sir Desmond Swayne last week.

He said: “To guarantee Brexit, the prime minister should prorogue parliament until April – tempting, isn’t it?”

She replied: “My right honourable friend is trying to tempt me down a road that I do not think I should go down.”

Ms May must win the support of Tory Brexiteers if she wants to plot a new course, but Mr Rees-Mogg said he would not be swayed unless the hated Irish backstop was stripped from the withdrawal agreement, which many Eurosceptics believe keeps the UK too closely tied to the EU.

Discussing Ms May’s deal, he added: “I think people’s chances of stopping Brexit are very slim.

“Of course any deal would be better than not leaving at all, but this deal ... is not good enough. It needs fundamental change.”

However, Mr Rees-Mogg said he was still hopeful for changes to Ms May’s deal.

“I think at last, things are going our way ... I think there is good news for us to hope that a reformation of this deal could be achieved that could make it acceptable.”

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Pro-EU MP Virendra Sharma accused his rival of attempting to “declare war on parliament”.

“Take back control seems to have morphed into suspending parliamentary democracy,” the Best for Britain supporter said.

“This smells like a parliamentary coup.

“All of this is because he knows the momentum in parliament and in the country is for a public vote on Brexit. But no one could have expected him to declare war on parliament.”

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