Nicholas Mairs, PoliticsHome, April 24, 2018
Favouring EU migrants who want to move to the UK after Brexit would be “racist”, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.
The outspoken Brexiteer blasted Michel Barnier’s claim yesterday that Brussels was seeking “ambitious provisions on the movement of people”, saying such a move in exchange for a trade deal would be “completely improper”.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said at a speech in Hanover that agreement on the issue could form part of the UK and EU’s “future economic relationship”.
But Mr Rees-Mogg told an event hosted by Open Europe: “As a member of the European Union there may be a case to be made that we should give preferential treatment to people from the EU, but once we’re outside the European Union we are then basically, if we give them preference, running a racist immigration policy.”
He added that people from the rest of Europe are “by and large white” and ministers “should think of that carefully”.
“If we are to decide that we should have a policy that discriminates against the Caribbean, because they’re not in the European Union, to take people from inside people from the EU, which we have left; now I think that is an extremely dubious policy to run and I think it would be wrong and indefensible”.
The head of the Tory party’s powerful pro-Brexit European Research Group was similarly withering on the Government’s suggestion of a “customs partnership”, blasting the idea as “completely cretinous”.
The arrangement, which would see Britain collect import tariffs on behalf of Brussels, has been proposed as a potential option by Theresa May in a bid to prevent customs checks at the Irish border.
“It’s completely cretinous, the silliest thing I could possibly think of — it’s a betrayal of good sense,” he added.
“I cannot understand why the Government is faffing around with this system.”
His comments come as MPs face a series of votes on keeping Britain in the customs union in the coming months, in what could heap pressure on the Prime Minister to change the Government’s course.
Mr Rees-Mogg added however that staying in the customs union “means you become a tariff-taker and a rule-taker” from the EU, adding: “That’s worse than what we have now.
He also warned that it was in the interests of Europe to reach a deal as much as the UK, as the bloc would be “insolvent” without one.
The North-East Somerset MP added that ministers needed to be “firmer”, with an approach of ‘we want free trade, you want our money’.
“There’s no point threatening things that you won’t deliver — we have to be clear that ‘no deal’ is a possibility,” he added.