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Rees-Mogg urges May to get tough with Brussels

By Alan McGuinness, political reporter
A prominent Brexiteer has urged Theresa May to toughen her stance in talks with Brussels after making "errors" in her negotiating strategy.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is leader of the influential European Research Group of Conservative MPs, said there was "no menace in me at all" over his actions.But in the latest in a series of criticisms of the way the exit talks are being handled, Mr Rees-Mogg said the government had put forward "over-complicated" solutions to the customs issue and must be ready to tell Brussels it will walk away without paying the €39bn Brexit divorce bill.
Rees-Mogg urges May to get tough with Brussels

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The MP for North East Somerset also said it had be an error on the prime minister's part to rule out the prospect of unilaterally keeping an open Irish border post-Brexit.He told the BBC'S Andrew Marr Show: "The prime minister said in her Mansion House speech that she wasn't going to do this, I think that is a mistake."I think it is the obvious negotiating position to have.
Rees-Mogg urges May to get tough with Brussels

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"Bear in mind the Irish economy is heavily dependent on its trade with the United Kingdom, it is overwhelmingly in the interests of the Republic of Ireland to maintain an open border with the United Kingdom."I think, if you are going into a negotiation, you should use your strongest cards and just to tear one of them up and set hares running on other issues is, I think, an error."
Mr Rees-Mogg said the "backstop" option, which would see the UK potentially sticking to EU rules in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event there is no agreement on how to solve the issue, was a "real problem" as it could leave us as a "vassal state for an indeterminate period".
Rees-Mogg urges May to get tough with Brussels

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He added: "Basically, the deal is very simple - we are paying a very large amount of money, €40bn, and in return we want a trade deal."Everything else is essentially incidental to that."Mr Rees-Mogg said Britain should make it clear it is prepared to play hardball with Brussels and withhold paying the divorce bill in the event "we don't get the trade deal we want".
Rees-Mogg urges May to get tough with Brussels

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He said Britain had an ace up its sleeve on this score as without the UK's money the EU "faces a real crisis next March", while the political situation in Italy means it is already grappling with other problems.
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Mr Rees-Mogg is a popular choice among grassroots Tories to be the party's next leader, but he sought to play down his own ambitions, describing claims he could succeed Mrs May as "ridiculous".He insisted he believed she was "the most impressive and dutiful leader this country has had" and "crucial to the Brexit project".
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