Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed Theresa May’s assertion that her Government will not be defined by Brexit is “absurd” and every area of Whitehall should be concentrating on the Britain’s exit from the EU.
Mr Rees Mogg – touted as a favourite in the summer months to replace the Prime Minister in Downing Street – also said he believed Ms May “put the cart before the horse” at her speech in Florence on payments to the EU.
Speaking at an event hosted by the think-tank Politeia during the Conservative party conference, the eccentric MP said: “It [Brexit] is the defining political issue of our time and and to pretend otherwise – you hear statements saying the Government doesn’t want to be defined by Brexit. This is absurd.”
“It’s got to be defined by Brexit. This is a fundamental shift in how the country is governed on the same order of magnitude of the Glorious Revolution or the Great Reform Bill. It is transformative constitutionally and consequences will knock on every area of our lives,” he added.
His comments come after the Prime Minister said ahead of her first Cabinet meeting last year that her Government will not be “defined by Brexit” - a line she has repeatedly stood by as she hopes to also concentrate on the domestic agenda in Britain.
Mr Rees-Mogg also claimed there is no obligation under UK, EU or international law to pay any money to the bloc in the form of a divorce bill, adding: “That should be our starting point in the negotiations.
“And we should certainly not be saying we will make payments in the event we don’t get an entirely satisfactory deal,” he said.
Asserting that the best deal would be a free trade deal replicating the one currently in place with the bloc, Mr Rees-Mogg continued: “I wouldn’t have said what the Prime Minister said in the Florence speech because I thought it was putting the cart before the horse – but as she has said it I will confess that I don’t particularly disagree with continuing to contribute during the multi and financial framework on condition that we have exactly the deal that we want.
“But otherwise I would not be willing to do that and we must be absolutely ready to say that we will not pay anything.”
Earlier on Monday, the MP urged his colleagues to stop “faffing about” over Ms May’s leadership and back her to deliver Brexit.
At a packed rally meeting, the North East Somerset MP told Brexit-backers: “Be of good cheer, we won, it's happening.
“Now what have we got to do? We have got to back Theresa May, her position needs to remain solid and well-supported by all Conservatives to get the Brexit deal done.
“No more faffing around about alternatives to Mrs May - she is our leader, she needs our support, she deserves our support.
“The good cheer we get from the Foreign Secretary is fantastic.”