Olly Robbins confirms backstop concerns as Jacob Rees-Mogg says the EU has the UK 'exactly where they wanted'

Olly Robbins confirms backstop concerns as Jacob Rees-Mogg says the EU has the UK 'right where they wanted'

Jacob Rees-Mogg during the committee hearing. Image: Parliament TV

Monday, December 3, 2018

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said the EU has the UK “right where they wanted” over the Irish backstop.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who sits on the Committee for Exiting the European Union, made the comment during a session on Monday, in which chief Brexit adviser Olly Robbins and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay took questions.

Mr Robbins’ reservations over the backstop were revealed in the Daily Telegraph, which published a leaked letter from him to Theresa May warning that the solution of a border down the Irish Sea would lead to a “bad outcome”.

The letter is reported to read: “"We should not forget that the backstop world, even with a UK-EU customs union, is a bad outcome with regulatory controls needed somewhere between GB and NI, serious and visible frictions and process between GB and the EU, and no security co-operation provided for."


Backstop 'uncomfortable outcome'

Olly Robbins. Image: Parliament TV

During the committee session, Mr Rees-Mogg asked Mr Robbins whether he stood by the views he reportedly expressed in the letter.

“Can I ask you about today’s Daily Telegraph and a couple of very interesting comments attributed to you, which you may want to dissociate yourself from,” said Mr Rees-Mogg.

“First of all, he, that is to say, you, argue that extending the transition period after Brexit would provide a more cast iron escape route. Is that your view?”

“You’ll expect me to say that I’m not going to comment on a leaked document, but it is certainly true that if the UK were to enter into an extended implementation period, some of the negative consequences of being in the backstop that the chairman refers to would not apply,” Mr Robbins replied.

“I thought you’d say you wouldn’t comment, so I’ll you on your next quotation: 'We should not forget that a backstop… is a bad outcome with regulatory controls'. Is that broadly your view?” Mr Rees-Mogg continued.

“All I can do is reiterate that the backstop is an uncomfortable outcome for both sides,” said Mr Robbins.

Mr Rees-Mogg responded by saying that he thought the backstop, which, some ministers have warned, effectively tie the UK to the customs union without recourse to leave the arrangement, was rather more favourable for the EU.

“Well, for one side, I think they’ve got us exactly where they wanted,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab described the backstop as “indefinite limbo”.

Boris Johnson also urged Mrs May to "junk the backstop" when he spoke at the DUP's annual conference earlier this month, and DUP leader Arlene Foster has said the backstop is "not in the national interest".