Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of a “pathetic little stunt” over a visit to the Irish border with a TV news crew – after failing to go on two trips with the Brexit committee he sits on.
The leader of the hardline Tory European Research Group has today travelled to the border with Sky News.
But he has previously refused to take part in formal visits as part of the Commons Brexit Select Committee, saying he would learn nothing by going and that he got his information by speaking to Northern Irish MPs – the vast majority of whom belong to Theresa May’s DUP backers.
Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, a champion for the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said Mr Rees-Mogg’s “cheap little stunt is just another PR opportunity for a man woefully out of his depth”. He said: “Rees-Mogg has refused to visit previously or meet officials to understand concerns of businesses and communities on either side of the border, but now has decided to come with a camera crew in tow. He had said he would learn nothing from going – I guess that stupid comment was a lie. “What is more galling is that a man who gets his information, according to him, on Northern Ireland from the DUP has the ear of Number 10. This shows how far the Conservatives have fallen from the common-sense middle ground. “This all smacks of a frankly pathetic little stunt.”
Last month Mr Rees-Mogg said he did not need to visit the border to understand the possible impact of a Hard Brexit on the island of Ireland.
He said he had ‘not recently’ visited Northern Ireland, and said he believed going to the border would not offer ‘any greater insight’ on the Brexit threat than ‘studying’ or talking to fellow MPs.
.@Jacob_Rees_Mogg said he didn’t need to visit the Irish border to understand the challenges of Brexit for border communities. So @ShonaSkyNews and I took him. Lots to say on the border and on @PhilipHammondUK in the Treasury too. More on #AOP at 10am. Full report tonight! pic.twitter.com/4bqBVxlEbJ
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) June 27, 2018
He said: ‘There was a visit of the Exiting the EU committee [there were actually two] but I don’t think that my going to the border would give me any greater insight than speaking to people.’
Invited by a BBC reporter to visit the border to understand people’s concerns, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: ‘I don’t think my visiting the border is really going to give me a fundamental insight into the border beyond what one can get from studying it.’
The hardline MP used today’s trip to the border to renew his attacks on chancellor Philip Hammond, accusing him of behind the recent flood of concerned businesses speaking out on Brexit.
Ahead of a crunch Chequers meeting of cabinet ministers next Friday to agree detailed plans on the UK’s post-Brexit future, Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News: “I think there is cooperation between the Remainers in the cabinet and some businesses, some of the more politicised businesses.
Asked who he meant, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Oh, the chancellor. Boris Johnson was quite right when he said the Treasury is the beating heart of Remain, that’s obvious.”
He said he expected to see more interventions from business ahead of the Chequers summit.
“We’ll see a lot of business recognise there will be opportunities from leaving as well as concerns that they want to suck up to the Treasury,” he told Sky News.
A Treasury source told the channel that any suggestion their department was trying to undermine government policy was “nonsense”.
“The Treasury is the champion of prosperity for the British people,” they said.
“All of us, government and industry alike must make the case for an EU exit that protects that prosperity, protects jobs and allows business to go on trading, investing and creating the growth that supports our economy.”