Brexit DELAY: Jacob Rees-Mogg GIVES UP on March 29 departure – 'MPs just won’t support it'

The senior backbencher suggested that his 80-strong European Research Group (ERG) of MPs might accept an “appendix” to be attached to her Withdrawal Agreement setting out legal guarantees that the UK will not be indefinitely trapped in a customs union with the EU. Mr Rees-Mogg insisted that the appendix must have “equal” legal force to the original 585-page document setting out the agreement. He also indicated is willingness to accept a possible three-month delay to Brexit in the hope of getting a better deal. 

Postponing the departure day currently set for March 29 could be “the price we have to pay to get out properly”, he said.

His remarks marked a significant shift from the ERG’s initial position of demanding that the “backstop” proposals for keeping the Northern Irish border free of customs checks should be ripped out of the document.

They raised hopes among ministers that the Prime Minister could win a Commons vote to approve her revamped deal within the next fortnight.

Mr Rees-Mogg dropped his hint during an interview on Sky News yesterday.

Asked about the possibility of a extra legal guarantee being added to the deal, he said: “It has to have equal weight to the Withdrawal Agreement.

“So, if it were to be an appendix that would be satisfactory, but then the backstop is itself an appendix, so you can add to the Withdrawal Agreement without re-opening it, it seems to me.

“So, that would work, but it must be of equal legal standing.”

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is leading a drive to negotiate the details of the extra legal guarantee. 

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He held talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and other EU officials in Brussels earlier this week and is expected to return for more meetings in the coming days.

In a separate interview with the Spectator magazine published today, Mr Rees-Mogg said the ERG had changed tactics following Commons votes backing calls for the Prime Minister to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

The backbencher said that while he was ready for a no-deal departure “I don’t think we’ve got the votes in Parliament for it.”

He said he was ready to back a three-month delay to Brexit in the hope of getting a better deal.

“If three months’ delay is the price we have to pay to get out properly, well, three months in the history of our great nation is a mere bagatelle. We can live with that. 

“So we are very optimistic and we will make sure that Brexit succeeds.”

Insisting the ERG had been right to oppose the initial deal and attempt to topple Mrs May with a Tory no-confidence vote in her leadership, he said: “You can snipe from the sidelines, you can give anonymous briefings, you can feed poison into people’s ears. 

“Or you can stand up and say: actually, this isn’t good enough — we need a change. That’s what we said. It didn’t work and therefore we had to accept that result.”

Mrs May suffered the biggest Government defeat in British parliamentary history in January when the Commons rejected her original Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Rees-Mogg and dozens of members of the ERG were among 118 Tories who defied their party whip to oppose the measure.

Mrs May lost by a margin of 230 votes.

The rebuff led to her returning to Brussels to seek the extra guarantees on the backstop border measure.


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