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Brexit is unstoppable, Rees-Mogg tells ICAEW

Speaking at this year’s LSCA annual dinner, the MP for North East Somerset thanked accountants for civilising the world, while urging the government to call the EU’s bluff and hold out to the last minute for a good Brexit deal.

Rees-Mogg MP

August 2018

Theresa May has a stronger hand in negotiations with Brussels now parliament has passed the EU Withdrawal Bill, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg MP told ICAEW Chartered Accountants in London. Earlier, the MP for North East Somerset, who made his fortune as a fund manager in the City, said the world’s earliest written records were produced by Mesopotamian accountants 7,000 years ago. “Without accountancy, civilisation would not have developed. Accountancy is the essence of civilisation so thank you very much,” he said.

See all pictures of the 2018 LSCA dinner

Rees-Mogg, guest speaker at this year’s London society dinner, declared: “We want to get as much free trade as possible with the EU and for that we are prepared to pay £39bn.”

Until the Withdrawal Bill was passed in Parliament it was possible for critics to argue Britain would never actually leave the EU, he said. But he went on: “It has been passed in a way that means Brexit cannot be stopped. It gives the Prime Minister a much stronger negotiating hand. Now the Bill is through we can call the EU’s bluff.”

Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Conservative Party’s Eurosceptic European Research Group said once Britain had left the EU “as a sovereign nation we make the rules”. That would mean encouraging free trade without customs barriers. “All those smelly French cheeses,” he said. ‘If we think French cheese is safe on 29 March next year (official Brexit day), we will think it is safe on 30 March.”

He said failure to reach a deal with the EU was “a bigger risk for them than us; EU businesses will be more than happy to go on selling to us. We want to be able to sell our goods to them. That is the quid pro quo.” Brussels had a long-standing habit of leaving decision making until the eleventh hour and Rees-Mogg said he expected Brexit negotiations to drag on. He warned: “We must be willing to push it to the last moment to get the deal we want.”

In future, Britain wants an “entrepreneurial, business-friendly, low-tax country,” said Rees-Mogg, adding: “Our competition is not Europe, it is the rest of the world. I have confidence in our ability to get things right for ourselves.”

In the worst case, for instance, if there were no agreement on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Britain could simply say: “We are not putting up a border, what are you going to do? The truth is the Irish government is never going to put up a border.”

Rees-Mogg admitted: “I cannot guarantee the EU won’t be completely irrational and act against its own best interests but there are a lot of exaggerated fears even if the EU tries to be as difficult as possible.” Brussels could impose tariffs on some British goods but World Trade Organisation rules meant they might add two or three per cent to the cost of car parts, for instance, which was “trivial in a world of floating currencies”.

See all pictures of the 2018 LSCA dinner

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