An EU leader has said the bloc is “very pleased” not to be negotiating Brexit with Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg after he warned the UK could “bankrupt” Ireland if there’s a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Mr Rees-Mogg warned Ireland could face huge tariffs on exports to the UK following reports that the EU has rejected Theresa May’s proposals for a customs arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard border in Ireland.
EU officials gave the two options set out in the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech a “systematic and forensic annihilation” at recent talks, an EU source told the Telegraph last week.
The development has led to speculation that Mrs May could be forced to re-think her plan to leave the customs union after Brexit.
That is fiercely opposed by Mr Rees-Mogg, who leads the Conservative’s pro-Brexit group of MPs and would prefer the UK to trade under WTO rules if no deal can be reached with the EU.
He said the EU’s refusal to agree a customs arrangement was “jeopardising the economic future of the Republic of Ireland.”
“If Britain trades on WTO terms, we could potentially slap tariffs of up to 70 per cent on Irish beef,” he said.
“That could bankrupt Ireland, who export £800million of beef to us every year.”
The EU’s Commissioner for agriculture, Ireland’s Phil Hogan, issued a sharp response to his comments at a press conference in Brussels today.
Mr Hogan said: “That’s why we’re very pleased in the European Union that we’re dealing with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and not with Mr Rees-Mogg.
“We’re not going to speculate on the lot of speculative statements that he makes on a regular basis.”
Earlier this month, Mr Hogan gave a speech in which he argued the UK will “return to medium-sized nation status” and have “reduced bargaining power” in global trade after Brexit.
The row came as the EU celebrated signing a trade agreement with Mexico, which will see the country cuts its tariffs on European food and drink imports.
The EU expect it to lead to a rise in exports of products like pasta, chocolate, cheese, apples, pork and poultry.
Labour MEP David Martin said it was proof that the UK should remain in the customs union after Brexit.
“Tory ministers made big claims at last week’s Commonwealth Summit that they would make progress on new trade deals, on which they’ve once again failed to deliver, while the EU just gets on with it, adding Mexico to Japan and Singapore in the past few days alone,” he said.