Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Tory Brexiteer and one of the most vocal critics of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, has hinted that he could back Boris Johnson in a future leadership contest.
“I think very highly of Boris Johnson who managed to win in London twice in a Labour area [and] has a great connection with voters,” Rees-Mogg said in an interview with Sky News program.
He believes that aside from the withdrawal issue, Johnson is “very much in the middle” of the Tory Party and could unite it. The party is currently fractured over Brexit, but Rees-Mogg believes Johnson could lead it to victory in an election.
The UK was scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March, but British lawmakers, including over a hundred members of Theresa May’s own party, rejected her Brexit deal. The main sticking point is the Irish border issue: Theresa May and fellow EU leaders agreed to a so-called “backstop”, a policy to avoid any physical barrier in Northern Ireland until another solution is found.
Opponents of her deal, including Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), argue that this policy, which would see Northern Ireland remain aligned with some EU rules, poses a threat to the country’s constitutional integrity.
MPs have also blocked a no-deal Brexit, prompting Theresa May to state that the UK would either get a divorce deal passed or not leave at all.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) 7 апреля 2019 г.
Brussels has agreed to set 12 April as the ultimate deadline for the approval of the withdrawal agreement, which means that if it doesn’t receive enough support in parliament by that date, London would not be granted a further delay to depart from the bloc without a deal in place or some sort of plan.
Meanwhile, some MPs are warning the PM that they will move to replace her within weeks if the UK is forced to take part in the elections to the European Parliament at the end of May and extend its EU membership beyond this June.
In a bid to get her deal through parliament, Theresa May reached out to the Labour Party to try and reach a compromise. She has gone to great lengths to secure a deal and even promised to stand down if it goes through.
Jacob Reese-Mogg was critical of May’s move, however. “I think the prime minister risks giving a degree of credibility to [Labour leader] Mr Corbyn and undermining the general thrust of the Conservative argument that he is a Marxist who would be dangerous to this nation’s interests,” he opined.
Rees-Mogg, who chairs the pro-Brexit European Research Group within the Conservative Party, also praised Remainer Amber Rudd, the secretary of state for work and pensions, who has also been tipped as a potential contender. Johnson and Rudd are reportedly in talks to forge an alliance to replace Theresa May at the helm of the party.
Johnson, the former mayor of London and foreign secretary, is an ardent Brexiteer and a staunch opponent of May's soft Brexit agreement. Last July, he quit his post in the cabinet over the PM's negotiating strategy and most recently, he called her deal a “democratic disaster”. However, he announced a week ago that he would still back her deal in case of a third ratification vote to prevent parliament from “stealing Brexit”.