“No deal is better than a bad deal,” they used to say. Now, Brexiters are scared to lose THEIR Brexit altogether. One of them, the Leader of the House, has a long history of conflicting declarations on Brexit... Fact-checking Jacob Rees-Mogg.

First published in June 2019 | Updated in September 2019.

In a Guardian article published last April, the paper’s Brussels bureau chief, Daniel Boffey, explained how Theresa May – in one of her last meetings with her fellow European Leaders – asked the EU27 “to ignore the threats of Conservative MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg during her presentation at Wednesday’s EU Council, according to senior EU officials — referring to Rees-Mogg’s tweet saying the UK should be as “difficult as possible” if a long extension “left the UK stuck in the EU.”

“She made the point that the UK was a serious country and we should not get distracted by some non-members of the government that seemed to be trying to create the opposite impression,” a senior official thus said.

In a piece published in PMP Magazine, Professor Chris Grey had written about “Brexit Ultras like Jacob Rees-Mogg already talking grotesquely of using the extension period to be as obstructive as possible it’s not hard to see why some countries might not be eager to extend.”

Arch-Brexiter and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg never lost an opportunity to twist the knife on Theresa May, especially with the prospect of a Tory meltdown in both the Local and European Elections last month.

“The majority of the people at [Conservative] associations I’m addressing — and these are members of the party — tell me they’re voting for the Brexit party,” he recently told Nick Ferrari on LBC. “I don’t see how a leader can go on so removed from the support base of the party membership.”

“How can an MP go on so removed from the British people?”, one could easily ask back, especially when they keep changing their opinion whilst they deny the people the same right... Brexiters loved to think that “No deal is better than a bad deal” until the day they were so scared they would lose THEIR Brexit altogether that they ended up voting for Theresa May’s Brexit Deal when she took it to Parliament for the third time – and yet got defeated once again.

Whether one agrees with his political and personal positions or not, Jacob Rees-Mogg has often shown his extensive knowledge of parliamentary procedures and was seen by many as a man of principles. A very articulate politician who mostly became known in parliament for his speeches, his peculiar language and his filibustering in parliamentary debates. But that was until Mr Rees-Mogg stopped being a man of principles.

The MP for North East Somerset has indeed a long history of conflicting declarations on what Brexit means or how it ought to be implemented since the 2016 referendum.

Let’s start with the idea of a second referendum, which he and his fellow Brexiters are so keen to repeat they are deeply opposed to and find totally undemocratic today. It is actually something Jacob Rees-Mogg himself was not against at all, back in 2011, when he even suggested in the House of Commons the possibility of such a vote as a way to confirm a decision to leave the European Union after completion of the government negotiations with the EU.

National Referendum on the European Union, 24 October 2011. / Hansard

24 October 2011 / Parliament.tv

On Brexit itself, in 2016, Jacob Rees-Mogg told an audience of BBC Question Time that if the UK was to fully leave the EU, the country would have to leave the Single Market. This was the MP’s starting position on Brexit.

“The opportunity is through leaving the Customs Union so we can trade freely with the rest of the world and that means we have to come out of the Single Market.”

22 September 2016 / BBC / Question Time

Although Jacob Rees-Mogg and his fellow Brexiters repeatedly chanted “Take back control” and “Parliamentary sovereignty” during and after the EU referendum, they are the last people anyone should trust with Parliamentary sovereignty.

Let’s be honest here, Jacob Rees-Mogg was never keen on having a Meaningful Vote in the House of Commons in the first place.

Indeed, in October 2016, he went on the BBC to explain why having the Meaningful Vote Theresa May was struggling to pass since December last year was actually undermining the result of the 2016 referendum.

11 October 2016 / BBC / Daily Politics

Then, Mr Rees-Mogg was setting conditions for his support of the Government in the negotiations with the EU, depending on the UK being out of the Customs Union and free to set its own tariffs after Brexit:

24 November 2016 / Sky News

Remember the day the Chairman of the ERG told Newsnight that Theresa May could be prime minister for longer [sic] than many people would expect?

28 June 2017 / BBC Newsnight

But then, at the July 2017 negotiations, EU and UK struggled on the financial settlement, citizens’ rights, Ireland and the role of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).

Brexit: the July negotiations, House of Commons / Parliament.uk

And to Jacob Rees-Mogg, all of this — and in particular the transitional arrangements — became a problem, which he clearly explained on Newsnight.

21 July 2017 / BBC Newsnight

Yet, because Theresa May kept repeating her mantra “Brexit means Brexit” and kept reassuring her party that her aim was to leave the European Union, and that she would not move one inch from her red lines, Rees-Mogg kept showing his support for the Prime Minister.

Here he is at the Conservatives Conference 2017, arguing that the significance of Brexit Britain was equivalent to the Magna Carta (1215), the Bill of Rights (1689), and past English victories such as Waterloo (1815), Agincourt (1415), Crecy (1346) and Trafalgar (1805)...

2 October 2017 / Channel 4 News

And so, Jacob Rees-Mogg started his own crusade against the great enemy... the big bad European Union. He told the BBC Daily Politics:

“The EU is saying they want us to settle the money first, that is their negotiating position, that is not Holy Writ – the Government doesn’t need to follow that. They need our money. Our negotiating position on money is very strong. We shouldn’t fall into their trap.”

19 November 2017 / BBC / Daily Politics

Increasing the attacks against the European Union, on a transition deal, a few days later, on Newsnight, he insisted:

“We cannot be a colony of the EU for two years from 2019 to 2021, accepting new laws that are made without any say-so from the British people, parliament or government... that is being a vassal state of the EU.”

15 December 2017 / BBC Newsnight

Really? No transition period? Are you sure?

“It would be a deceit to have a transition that kept us in the EU for two years by default.”

16 January 2018 / BBC Newsnight

Jacob Rees-Mogg then tried to get a confirmation from the first Brexit Secretary David Davis that the way the deal was being negotiated Britain was going to against Britain’s ‘independence’.

“If, on the 30 March 2019 the UK is subject to the ECJ, takes new rules relating to the Single Market and is paying into the EU Budget, are we not a vassal state?”

24 January 2018 / Parliament.uk

From then on, the Tory MP appeared on every available TV channel to explain his new opposition to what was now becoming Theresa May’s Brexit Deal – and not what he thought Brexiters had voted for.

Talking to Robert Peston on ITV, he said:

“Talk of remaining in a customs union sets off alarm bells and changing from an implementation to a transition period where we remain a vassal state of the European Union is also very concerning. People don’t want that!”

28 January 2018 / ITV / Peston

On BBC News:

“It would be bizarre to be in a position where, outside the European Union, we have to accept laws that inside the European Union we could veto... It’s unreasonable for Monsieur Barnier to expect that we would just roll over and allow those laws to come in.”

14 February 2018 / BBC News

On Newsnight, showing his disapproval of the terms being negotiated by Theresa May and her government, he told Emily Maitlis:

“This agreement gives away almost everything.”

19 March 2018 / BBC Newsnight

Addressing Leave Means Leave supporters, Jacob Rees-Mogg eventually brought the idea of a possible mighty government betrayal:

“If we were not to leave, it would be Suez all over again, it would be the most almighty smash to the national psyche that could be imagined.”

27 March 2018 / Channel 4 News

“I will not vote for something that doesn’t deliver Brexit,” he told the Today Programme in July 2018.

7 July 2018 / BBC / Today Programme

And then, the final straw. Chequers.

On 8 July, David Davis, the then-Brexit Secretary, resigned from government telling the BBC that he did not “believe” in Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s booming response to Theresa May’s Brexit proposals: “The government don’t believe in Brexit. I do.” — The importance of believing in Brexit.

9 July 2018 / LBC

At this point, it started to become personal.

“The government believes that Brexit is not a good thing in itself... She (Theresa May) is a Remainer who has remained a Remainer.”

15 July 2018 / BBC / Sunday Politics

In a Financial Times podcast interview, Rees-Mogg described Theresa May’s Brexit plan as “craven, weak and feeble.” He added that, to him, “Chequers tore up Mansion House. The Prime Minister referred to it as an ‘evolution’ but it was one of her big U-turns.”

11 August 2018 / Financial Times.

A month later, after meeting the EU’s Brexit Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, he called Theresa May’s plan “rubbish”.

3 September 2018 / BBC News

Then, told Newsnight:

“Chequers is not going to happen.”

3 September 2018 / BBC / Newsnight

A week later, Jacob Rees-Mogg recorded a short video for pro-No-Deal Brexit Conservative grassroots campaign StandUp4Brexit.

“Chequers is not Brexit. Theresa May rightly said that Brexit would mean Brexit. In her Lancaster House speech, she said she didn’t want a solution that was half in half out. I am backing the Lancaster House vision of Brexit, not Chequers.”

8 September 2018

“The £40 billion of our constituents’ money is not a legal obligation, it is a charitable donation,” he then told Parliament. “If the executive wishes to waste taxpayers’ money we must say ‘No!’”

11 September 2018 / Parliament.tv

Decision taken, at the Conservative Party Conference, he told Emily Maitlis:

“I’m going to vote against Chequers... because it is not Brexit, it is not delivering on the referendum result.”

What a contrast with the 2017 Conservative Party Conference, during which he was invoking the spirit of Waterloo, Agincourt, or Trafalgar...

2 October 2018 / BBC / Newsnight

Then, the threats...

“I’m sticking to the Conservative Party manifesto that said we would leave the Customs Union... I expect the Prime Minister to deliver on her promises.”

7 November 2018 / ITV / Peston

When the draft Brexit Agreement was first leaked to Irish media, Jacob Rees-Mogg reacted angrily:

“She hasn’t so much struck a deal as surrendered to Brussels... It is not so much the vassal state anymore as a slave state.”

13 November 2018 / Sky News

At this point, the MP for North East Somerset took the attack to the House of Commons. He questioned, for instance, the Brexit divorce bill that a House of Lords’ report written by the EU Financial Affairs Committee claimed Britain had no legal obligation to pay.

“What are we buying with £39bn of taxpayer money?”

26 November 2018 / BBC News

Then came the claims that the Prime Minister’s word is worth nothing.

“The deal is a very bad deal... The Prime Minister at one point used to go around saying no deal is better than a bad deal. It’s hard to think of a deal that could be worse than this one.”

1 December 2018 / LBC

At this point, Jacob Rees-Mogg had only one objective: to discredit Theresa May’s Brexit Deal and those who defend it, by all means. In the House of Commons, he thus obliterated the-then Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay with a question on taxation without representation.

“Taxation without representation – a fundamental constitutional principles given away in the backstop. You don’t seem to know about it, which is a bit of a problem...”

3 December 2018 / Parliament.tv

On 12 December 2018, the chairman of the ERG and Senior Brexiters decided they had had enough and finally had the necessary number of letters from colleagues to call a vote of no-confidence. After months of plotting behind her back, it was high time to remove Theresa May from Number 10. Or so they thought.

The 1922 Committee organised the ballot, and she survived with a majority of 83, as Conservative MPs voted to back her by 200 to 117.

Minutes after the vote, the defeated Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared on Sky News and openly expressed his refusal to accept the result.

12 December 2018 / Sky News / OFOC

A few minutes later, on BBC News, he even called for her resignation. Had Jacob Rees-Mogg lost his mind?

“Under all constitutional norms, she should go see the Queen and resign... The overwhelming majority of her non-paid backbenchers have voted against her, she clearly doesn’t have the confidence of the Commons – she should make way for someone who does.”

18 December 2018 / BBC News

Christmas and New Year passed, Theresa May was still Prime Minister. Rees-Mogg lost a lot of respect from many people on the Conservative side with that episode. As for Theresa May, she was now safe for 12 months. [sic]

When asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley whether anything had changed since December, he seemed to have no beef against Theresa May any longer, although his view on her deal had not changed. He also confirmed he was not interested in the wine parties organised by Number 10 to seduce MPs to vote her deal.

“Nobody I’ve spoken to in the Conservative Party or in the DUP has changed their mind on the failures of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

8 January 2019 / Sky News

Asked a couple of days later by Newsnight’s Nick Watt whether Number 10 could change his mind, Jacob Rees-Mogg was clear: nothing would change his mind.

“Even if the Prime Minister serves you the finest wine in the Downing Street cellar, you won’t be changing your mind?”

“Even it is wine as at the Wedding Feast of Cana, it will not be changing my mind. That would be quite a miraculous event.”

10 January 2019 / BBC / Newsnight

On the eve of Theresa May’s deal being voted in the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg explained to colleagues why he was going to vote it down, and why he was now fighting for a ‘clean Brexit’.

“Whatever we think, surely we owe it to our voters to deliver because otherwise, why should they ever trust us again?”

14 January 2019 / Parliament.tv

Now, remember the language Jacob Rees-Mogg has used over the past two years.

Theresa May’s deal seeks “to divides our country”, makes of the UK a “slave state”, “doesn’t commit on the Conservative Party’s manifesto”, means the UK will be “locked in the Customs Union”, allows “the ECJ to continue to have jurisdiction in the UK”, and makes Britain “pay £39bn for a vacuous political statement that could mean anything to anybody”.

These are just some of the words the MP for North East Somerset used on various occasion. They all have invoked the sentiment of betrayal, of prison, of division, of failure. They invoked the sentiment of a United Kingdom subjected to the orders of the European Union, of a Conservative Party betraying its voters, of a Prime Minister and a Parliament betraying the will of the people.

Project Fear.

Again, in the House of Commons, on the eve of the vote, he said:

European Union (Withdrawal) Act – House of Commons, 14 January 2019. / TheyWorkForYou.com

At a meeting of the Bruges Group, a eurosceptic right-wing think-tank, Jacob Rees-Mogg repeated his position on the Withdrawal Agreement: he would not vote for the deal for as long as the backstop was in it.

14 January 2019 / @BrugesGroup

Originally scheduled to be held on 11 December 2018, on 15 January 2019 the government was defeated by 432 votes to 202 –  the worst defeat for any government in modern Parliamentary history.

With rumours that Theresa May was prepared to bring the vote for a second time soon, Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted he would still vote the same way.

Repeat. No backstop.

No... backstop...

“The backstop needs to go.”

30 January 2019 / Channel 4 News

On Valentine’s Day, Jacob Rees-Mogg brought his sense of humour along with the 600-page Withdrawal Agreement to BBC Question Time. He also brought a new motto: “People voted to leave, they didn’t vote for a deal.”

“This deal leaves us potentially tied into a Customs Union indefinitely, subject to the ECJ potentially indefinitely and splits up the United Kingdom.”

14 February 2019 / Question Time

The second meaningful vote took place on 12 March 2019 and saw the government being defeated again.

With the possibility that Theresa May might decide to bring her deal for a third time, Jacob Rees-Mogg explained to LBC listeners why the unchanged Withdrawal Agreement was still a no-go to him.

What Rees-Mogg did not know though is that his description of the situation in this radio phone-in with Nick Ferrari – in particular his description of his colleagues who voted together with the government as letting down their voters and betraying the will of the British people – would come back to bite him on the third vote. [sic]

“The deal is still a very bad deal. It doesn’t deliver on the promises of the Conservative Party manifesto and it doesn’t deliver on the referendum result in full... Can we get to no-deal instead? If we can get to no-deal instead, it’s a better option... I think a two-year extension is basically remaining in the European Union.”

18 March 2019 / LBC

On 21 March, the European Union agreed an extension to the Article 50, postponing Brexit beyond 29 March 2019.

And then...

This happened:

Jacob Rees-Mogg writing in the Daily Mail, 26 March 2019. / Daily Mail

So, the very man who, for nearly three years, had denied the British people to have another say in a second referendum because they couldn’t possibly have changed their mind, Jacob Rees-Mogg himself had changed his mind!

Despite having rubbished it for months, calling it a failure and a betrayal of what people had voted for in 2016 — and too afraid to lose his Brexit altogether, he explained on the Today Programme why he was now ready to vote for Theresa May’s deal.

“We’ve got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all – half a loaf is better than no bread.”

27 March 2019 / BBC Radio 4 / Today

Realising how hypocritical he had been all along, Rees-Mogg used his sense of humour in an interview with ITV News.

“I’m thinking of changing my name to Jacob Rees-Deckchair and you can see which folds up faster.”

27 March 2019 / ITV News

Goodbye, principles! Goodbye, integrity!

But wait... that was not it... on the same day, Rees-Mogg told ITV’s Robert Peston there was a new condition to his supporting Theresa May’s deal: the DUP had to be onboard.

27 March 2019 / ITV / Peston

The next day, he told LBC:

“It is better to have Mrs May’s deal than no Brexit... I am in favour of the deal. I don’t like her deal, but the alternative is now worse. It’s not having Brexit at all.”

28 March 2019 / LBC

And so, later that day on Newsnight, Rees-Mogg faced Emily Maitlis’ scrutiny over previous declarations he made about Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.

“You didn’t say, well, I’m not quite sure. You said it would turn the UK into a slave state and then you consider voting for it.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, 28 March 2019 / BBC Newsnight

The third vote meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Deal finally took place on 29 March 2019. The government was defeated yet again.

Among the MPs who eventually voted in favour of Theresa May’s Deal: Jacob Rees-Mogg!

Division number 395, UK Withdrawal from the European Union, 29 March 2019. / TheyWorkForYou.com

But, let’s forget about the Withdrawal Agreement...

After Theresa May announced her stepping down from Number 10, a Tory Leadership contest was launched. Jacob Rees-Mogg was quick to offer his support to Boris Johnson... and his No-Deal project!

How many coats have you got, Jacob?

Now, why on earth would Jacob Rees-Mogg want to leave the European Union at all costs? What is there for him to benefit from Britain leaving the EU as soon as possible? Tax-avoidance? Business? Hatred against the EU? Personal dream or aim?

According to Channel 4’s Dispatches, “Rees-Mogg may have earned up to £7 million since the EU Referendum with profits increasing since the vote.”

That might be the beginning of an answer...

11 March 2019 / Channel 4 Dispatches

Over the last couple of years, Jacob Rees-Mogg has shown little or no interest whatsoever in what the British people think of Brexit, denying them even the right to change their mind when he has himself repeatedly changed his mind on the Brexit deal many times, on what Brexit means now, what Brexit actually meant in 2016, and what it might actually ever mean.

The truth is that Jacob Rees-Mogg does not care about what he does not derive benefits from. As an example, this is how he justified his decision not to visit the Irish border, on BBC Northern Ireland, in May 2018:

“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 by studying it.”

In a short film about the Irish border and the impact of Brexit on local communities produced by the Financial Times, Belfast-born actor Stephen Rea has a message for the MP:

“Jacob Rees-Mogg you’re right. You don’t need to visit the border... you need to have lived here.”

21 September 2018 / @FinancialTimes

Whilst he certainly has been and still is taking full financial advantage of the Brexit result, Jacob Rees-Mogg told Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy that it may be over 50 years before anything that he sees as a ‘Brexit benefit’ to happen...

“You don’t seem to be prepared to put your own future on the line when you’re prepared to put everybody else’s futures on the line,” Krishnan Guru-Murthy told Rees-Mogg after he refused to resign from Parliament if he is wrong about Brexit.

Brexiters don’t like to take responsibilities...

21 July 2018 / Channel 4 News

As Professor Chris Grey rightly wrote in one of his brilliant articles in PMP Magazine:

“There is also a certain pleasure to be taken in the way that Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Boris Johnson and others compromised on their ‘principles’ – those speech marks should be especially heavily emphasised in the case of Johnson – but to no avail. They will now be in line for the ‘betrayal’ vitriol they have done so much to whip up against others. Few will weep for them.”

Who would trust a politician who claims that the Victorians knew how to run a country properly, anyway?🔷

Book of the week. / The Times

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com on 8 June 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif of Jacob Rees-Mogg in Parliament.)