A no-deal Brexit would boost the UK economy by £1.1 trillion over 15 years, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said, arguing that crashing out of the EU is preferable to Theresa May’s Chequers plan.
The leader of the 60-strong European Research Group of Conservative Eurosceptic MPs said there is nothing to fear from a no-deal Brexit, as Britain’s trade with World Trade Organisation countries has grown four times faster than trade with countries that have a deal with the EU.
He also claimed that trading on WTO terms would reduce food prices by up to 8 per cent, providing the biggest benefit to the least well-off.
On Tuesday, Mr Rees-Mogg spoke at an event in Parliament hosted by Economists for Free Trade, at which he argued that a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU would be the best option for Brexit, but that no deal would be “a very good second best”.
The meeting gathered Brexiteers including Boris Johnson, David Davis – who both received applause for resigning from the Government over Chequers – Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, and Steve Baker.
Mr Johnson said Chequers is “worse than the status quo”, while Mr Duncan Smith accused the Government of “misguiding” the public by claiming there are no workable alternatives to the Chequers proposal.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s intervention marks the beginning of a concerted effort by Leave-supporting MPs to kill off Theresa May’s preferred Brexit plan, which they say would lead to “Brexit in name only”.
Brexiteers claim that up to 80 Tory MPs are prepared to vote against a deal with the EU if it based on Chequers, and by Monday night 25 MPs had put their names to the newly-launched StandUp4Brexit campaign, with the slogan “Chequers is not Brexit”.
They include Mr Duncan Smith, former international development secretary Priti Patel and former Brexit minister Steve Baker.
However, William Hague, who preceded Mr Duncan Smith as Tory leader, warns that Britain will find itself in “the most serious constitutional crisis for a century, and possibly two” if rebel MPs carry out their threat to block a Chequers-based Brexit deal.
Writing in The Telegraph, he says Supreme Court judges would end up having to decide on what the EU (Withdrawal) Act required the Government to do in such circumstances, and that “some MPs would start appealing to Buckingham Palace to intervene, dragging in the monarchy as well”.
Meanwhile it emerged that Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, will make a tub-thumping Brexit speech at a Tory Conference fringe event the day before Theresa May makes her keynote leader’s speech to conference, threatening to overshadow Mrs May’s attempts to restore her authority over her warring MPs.
Mr Johnson will address an audience of around 700 people at the event organised by the Conservative Home website in the early afternoon of Tuesday, October 2, with Mrs May speaking the next morning.
It means that Mr Johnson is likely to dominate headlines on the morning of Mrs May’s speech, which will set out her plan for the party winning the 2022 election, ruining Downing Street’s hopes for positive coverage on the front pages of highlights of Mrs May’s speech that will be briefed to the media the day before.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the Telegraph: “Leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms would lead to a quite remarkable economic advantage for the UK.
“Economists for Free Trade have calculated that a WTO agreement would result in a £1.1 trillion boost to the economy over 15 years, because our trade with WTO countries has grown four times faster than our trade under single market terms.
“Trading on WTO terms has been hugely successful and prices would go down by as much as 8 per cent for some basic items such as food and footwear, meaning it would provide the biggest benefit to the least well-off.”
The ERG has abandoned plans to present its own alternative Brexit plan this week, but will instead focus on proposing a solution to the Irish border question which is currently standing in the way of a deal.
Meanwhile Mr Davis, the former Brexit secretary, will on Wednesday speak at an event which will focus on the Irish border, and Mr Rees Mogg said ERG papers on other elements of Brexit may be published “in due course”.
Mr Rees-Mogg told Tuesday’s meeting that the Northern Ireland border question is “the only thing that is obstructing” a free trade agreement dubbed “Canada-plus” with the EU.
Downing Street insisted on Monday that Chequers is “the only plan on the table which will deliver on the will of the British people while avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland”.
In Slovenia, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told a conference it was “realistic” to believe a deal can be reached on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU by the end of October. Such a deal would include an agreement on the Irish border but would not include the terms of Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU.
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