ERG Splits On Latest Brexit Vote Overblown

Last night’s Brexit votes were notable less for what they were than the way Tory MPs voted on them. The Government ultimately accepted the new Cooper Amendment F which recommitted them to the timetable for a vote on delaying Brexit that May first offered on Tuesday, imposing a poorly organised three-line whip in favour of the amendment which led to chaos in the voting lobbies. Chris Grayling was spotted in the wrong lobby and the Prime Minister reportedly even had to ask a whip which way to vote…

Despite the confusion, over 100 Tory MPs directly defied the three-line whip to abstain or even vote against the amendment, not a remotely trivial number in itself. However the most interesting subplot that emerged was the split between the 88 MPs who abstained, and the 20 MPs who directly voted against it, including Esther McVey and Bill Cash. Could this be the start of the split between the hard core who will never vote for May’s deal under any circumstances and the group who could come round to it if enough concessions are secured by Geoffrey Cox? Even more significantly, does this signify the minimum number of Tory MPs who would vote for May’s removal in a vote of no confidence if she were to extend Article 50?

ERG sources have played down the significance of the split, the ERG were naturally opposed to the amendment but beyond that were not particularly fussed about whether to vote against it or simply to abstain, given its ultimate lack of significance. Guido also understands that reports of splits emerging between Boris and Rees-Mogg on the one hand and Steve Baker on the other have been much overblown – while Jacob did hint at a slight softening of his position on full-on treaty change to the backstop yesterday, sources close to the three have categorically dismissed reports of any splits emerging between them. Everything still hinges on what, if anything, Cox can bring back from Brussels…

The 20 MPs who voted against the Cooper amendment outright were:

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Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brexit Song

Jacob Rees-Mogg has sportingly given a retweet to this well-made spoof video of him singing some fairly dubious lines about Brexit to the tune of Pulp’s Common People. Ever classy Rees-Mogg commented:

“My more pedantic followers will be distressed that this video ends “alright” rather than “all right”, otherwise it is a clever spoof.”

Nice to see satire and comedy being received with good humour rather than the obligatory jumping on board the outrage bus which has taken over today…

‘The Malthouse Compromise’: Leavers and Remainers Unite Behind Brexit ‘Plan C’

In an unexpected development late last night, reports began to leak out of a secret compromise hammered out between Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker and Remainers including Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond. Even Remain-leaning Government ministers Robert Buckland and Kit Malthouse are on board, with Baker crediting Malthouse for bringing the warring factions together as he confirmed the reports which somehow managed to remain secret until last night. Remarkable given the range of people involved…

According to the messages sent to Tory MPs by Nicky Morgan last night, The ‘Malthouse Compromise’ would’:

  • Replace the backstop with the alternative protocol from the ‘Better Deal’ report launched last month, which would be “acceptable indefinitely”.
  • Extend the transition period for up to a year until the end of 2021 to give time for a smooth transition to a new relationship (Plan A).
  • Include a “triple safety net” around exiting with no Withdrawal Agreement:
    • Continue to offer ‘Plan A’
    • Agree a standstill transition period with the UK paying its financial commitments
    • Offer a GATT 24 WTO-compliant standstill on trade with no tariffs, no quantitative restrictions and no new barriers for execution” to come into force at the end of 2021 if the future relationship has not been agreed by then

Morgan says that “this would allow time for both parties to prepare properly for WTO terms, but also provide a period in which the parties could obviate this outcome by negotiating a mutually beneficial future relationship”. EU citizens’ rights would be guaranteed in all circumstances.

The big question is how this plan relates to today’s Parliamentary action. There are no amendments specifically related to it for MPs or even the Government to get behind, but the broad coalition of support behind it makes it impossible to ignore. Guido understands that Downing Street is interested in the proposals but has concerns about technical aspects around SPS checks…

Brexiteers remain divided over whether to support Sir Graham Brady’s amendment on renegotiating the Irish backstop, despite Theresa May giving it her official backing last night. Liam Fox confirmed on Today that the Government would be seeking to reopen the legal text of the deal if the amendment passed, potentially reassuring Brexiteers that it is not simply going to be ‘Operation Figleaf Mk II’. Guido cannot see any good reason for Brexiteers not to support Brady’s amendment, it is compatible with the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ and the best chance of changing the worst aspect of May’s deal…

Rees-Mogg Hints at Brexit Compromise if Backstop Goes

Jacob Rees-Mogg has dropped some strong hints that he may be prepared to soften his stance on Theresa May’s Brexit deal if the backstop is taken out. The ERG Chairman told a packed Bruges Group event that “as long as the backstop is there, I will not vote for the deal,” but added that “there is hope that there could be reformation of this deal to make it more acceptable.” The Moggster added that he felt things were “going our way” with EU splits beginning to open up with Poland and, significantly, Ireland, while insisting that he was not going soft:

“I like reading the papers that I’ve become a soft touch. I do whatever my children tell me. And they’re all staunch Eurosceptics.”

This could prove to be a smart move from the ERG, by flat-out opposing any form of the deal they risked condemning themselves to irrelevance, particularly if Yvette Cooper succeeds in ramming a juggernaut through the constitution next week. By focusing their demands on the more realistic target of the backstop they could see momentum swing back their way – even if the backstop is not removed altogether, legally binding changes are looking more feasible than before. As Rees-Mogg wrote himself on Sunday, “Even Mrs May’s deal would be better than not leaving at all”…

UPDATE: Boris has also hinted at a possible compromise if the deal changes, saying on the way past out of Number 10 that “if we negotiate with conviction… we can secure the changes that we need”…

May’s Deal Better Than No Brexit

Jacob Rees Mogg writes

“If I had to choose between no deal and Mrs May’s original accord, I would have no hesitation of opting for no-deal Brexit but even Mrs May’s deal would be better than not leaving at all.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg Gets His Own Weekly Show on LBC

Jacob Rees-Mogg fans will be rejoicing at the news that they are about to get even more of the Moggster, he is getting his own weekly show on LBC starting tonight. DJ Mogg’s half-hour phone-in with Nick Ferrari every fortnight has always been a good listen, now he will get his own hour-long slot at 6pm on Fridays which he wants to use to find out “what the public really thinks”. Vox populi, vox dei…

Christmas Peace

Rees-Mogg on the PM inviting him to No. 10 for Christmas drinks…

“Even the policeman on the door looked surprised…”

Soubry vs the ERG on May

Various Tory factions have been setting out their stalls ahead of tonight’s confidence vote in the Prime Minister. The ERG’s Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker have said:

“Theresa May’s plan would bring down the government if carried forward. But our Party will rightly not tolerate it. Conservatives must now answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”

The unspoken fear is that If May wins today she will fight the next election – and Tories will be slaughtered. The DUP will not support the government if May leads it on the current course. So “Vote May, get Corbyn.”

Meanwhile, Anna Soubry has hit out… at the ERG itself, attacking them as:

“A rump of hard right, hard Brexiteers. They should have been booted out by previous leaders. They behave appallingly and only represent themselves and their warped ideology. They need to get a life but they don’t have lives because they’re obsessed with Europe.”

A bit rich from Soubry given that she’s rebelled vastly more times than Brexiteers over the last two years…

Jacob Rees Mogg and Caroline Lucas to Feature in Channel 4 Debate

Channel 4 has reportedly confirmed Jacob Rees Mogg and Caroline Lucas to represent ‘No Deal’ and ‘Remain’ respectively in their debate scheduled for Sunday. The Government and Labour Party representatives are yet to be determined…

DUP: We’d “Rather Be Shafted By Labour” Than Accept Backstop

Tory MPs turned out in force for last night’s weekly ERG meeting, with around 80 MPs in attendance as well as notable guests including Chief Whip Julian Smith and May’s Deputy Chief of Staff, JoJo Penn. Jacob Rees-Mogg informed the ERG of the outcome of his and Steve Baker’s earlier meeting with Nigel Dodds, where Dodds made clear that the DUP would support the Government in any confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected. If the Withdrawal Agreement went through their support was far from certain…

Also in attendance were DUP MPs Sammy Wilson – who was “cheered to the rafters” by Tory MPs – and Ian Paisley Jr, who made the point directly to Julian Smith’s face that while the DUP had been very happy working with the Tories, they would “rather be shafted by Labour” than accept the backstop. As Dodds pointed out later on Peston, you don’t need a General Election to bring down a government:

Smith himself addressed the meeting later on, while he didn’t get a hostile reception from the ERG, his points were all shot down in the detail. Smith suggested that some tinkering was possible but gave an impression of a government that was reluctant to ask EU member states for any further changes. The overall message remained clear: it’s the PM’s deal or nothing, the Government has no other plans. And they wonder why the EU has been able to play them like a fiddle from start to finish…

Mogg: Government Could Win Meaningful Vote

Speaking on ConservativeHome’s MoggCast, Jacob Rees-Mogg revealed he is “not rule[ing] out the possibility of the Government winning” next week’s meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement, and that he expects it will be won or lost by a margin of “plus or minus five.” Shooting down media expectations of a crushing triple figure defeat for the Government, the ERG chairman is being a lot more conservative with numbers than his group was being two weeks ago…

Ashcroft Writing Biography of Jacob Rees-Mogg

Michael Ashcroft is writing a biography of the Moggster with the working title “Jacob’s Ladder” to be published by his publisher Biteback this summer. Which is likely to be too late to influence a Tory leadership election…

Lord Ashcroft thinks Rees-Mogg stands out among the current crop of politicians. This work will be on top of the book he is already writing – with regular collaborator Isabel Oakeshott – on the NHS. His biography of Cameron was seen as a revenge piece, the Moggster will be hoping for a kinder treatment…

Rees-Mogg Pulls Out Of Exclusive CCHQ Donor Dinner

Guests of an exclusive dinner with some of the Conservative Party’s biggest donors next week have today been sent an email from CCHQ informing them that Jacob Rees-Mogg will no longer be attending the dinner, and in his place will instead be the ultra-loyal Steve Barclay.

“Unfortunately Jacob Rees-Mogg will no longer be joining the dinner on Tuesday evening but the new Secretary of State for exiting the EU, the Rt. Hon Stephen Barclay MP, will attend in his place.

Please could you let me know as soon as possible if you would still like to attend the dinner.”

Guido can only wonder what the reason for the sudden CCHQ announced change could have been…

UPDATE: Rees-Mogg learned he had been dropped by reading Guido…

Osborne Rips Into Rees-Mogg In Today’s Evening Standard

Vicious… […] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Watch Rees Mogg Press Conference in Full

Mogg spoke to a massive media scrum for ten minutes. It’s all but certain now that Graham Brady has the 48 letters required to force a vote of no confidence…[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Rees-Mogg: This Is Not A Coup

Speaking outside Parliament following the ERG meeting where it was decided that letters should be sent in, Rees-Mogg clarified:

“A coup is when you use illegitimate procedures to try to overturn someone in office. This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party.”

Speaking to a huge media scrum, Mogg said that there are “many many people” who could replace Theresa May.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

ERG Advises MPs To Send In Letters

It’s on. Mogg will be making an announcement outside parliament after the ERG meeting…

Read Rees-Mogg’s full letter to Graham Brady below:[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Jacob Rees-Mogg to Tory MPs: Vote Down This Deal

ERG Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg has written to all Conservative MPs calling on them to vote down Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement. Short and to the point…[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Mogg on May

Jacob Rees-Mogg on Theresa May

“There comes a point at which the policy and the individual become so intimately connected that it would be very hard to carry on supporting the person who is promoting this policy.”[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Rich’s Monday Morning View

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

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