Behind the scenes

Jacob Rees-Mogg on mission to ‘turbo-charge’ the benefits of Brexit

The arch-Brexiteer will be in charge of the government's post-Brexit agenda

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been tasked with proving the advantages of Brexit in his new Cabinet role, as Boris Johnson faces ongoing pressure over the Downing Street party scandal.

Johnson undertook a “defensive” mini-reshuffle yesterday in which he moved “arch-loyalists” within Cabinet in an attempt to “shore up support on the right” of his party, said The Times

It saw Leader of the House of Commons Rees-Mogg moved to a new role as the minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, which will see him “take responsibility for the government’s post-Brexit agenda, including civil service reform”, said the paper. 

The Times’s associate political editor Henry Zeffman argued that “in terms of rank” the move was a promotion for Rees-Mogg, while Politico’s London Playbook argued it was “a demotion” that was “spun as a promotion”. Rees-Mogg can now attend Cabinet as a full member. 

With deregulation at the heart of the government’s post-Brexit agenda, Rees-Mogg has reportedly been asked by the prime minister to “draw up an action plan” with “1,000 regulations we want to get rid of”, according to government officials who spoke to the Financial Times

The prime minister has reportedly asked his new Brexit minister to “demonstrate” the claims they both made during the 2016 Brexit referendum that “leaving the EU would improve daily life and help business”, said the paper. 

The Financial Times has said the new Brexit opportunities minister is ready to “turbo-charge” the deregulation agenda, telling Johnson: “I’m ready to go to work if you could just tell me where my office is.”

But many business leaders remain “nervous” that deviating too far from existing rules will leave them shut out of EU markets, while Johnson has also faced criticism that many post-Brexit “red tape blitzes have been merely symbolic changes, such as restoring the crown symbol on pint glasses”.

British business with the EU has already suffered in the post-Brexit period, said the Public Accounts Committee in a new report published today, which outlined how the UK’s delays in introducing a new import regime in the post-Brexit period meant additional costs and paperwork for UK businesses. 

The report said that while it is “not yet clear” whether the UK decline in trade with the EU had been caused by the pandemic or by Brexit, what “is clear” is that “UK businesses face additional administration and cost when trading with the EU”.

Rees-Mogg is certainly an “ardent Brexiteer” who has “never wavered in his enthusiasm for the opportunities offered by leaving the EU and will now be responsible for delivering them”, said The Telegraph

And many Tory MPs have been “disappointed” that “more is not being made of Brexit freedoms to deregulate and cut taxes, notably VAT on energy”. 

Lord Bridges, a former Brexit minister, said: “Instead of throwing off the duvet of regulation and bracing ourselves for the chill of global competition, we seem to be snuggling down.”

He added that while the “Singapore model” was never a realistic post-Brexit option, the UK now seems to be “drifting towards being Brussels on Thames”.

“It is Mr Rees-Mogg’s task now to ensure that this tendency is stopped and reversed,” said The Telegraph. If “Mr Rees-Mogg can coordinate this activity all well and good because the Government’s fate could well hang by his ability to do so effectively, preferably in time for the next election.”

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