Could Be Worse, We Could Be Negotiating With Rees-Mogg, EU Says

(Bloomberg) -- There’s at least one aspect of Brexit negotiations the European Union is grateful for: having Theresa May as prime minister rather than the bookmakers’ favorite to replace her, arch-euroskeptic Jacob Rees-Mogg.

European commissioners aren’t supposed to stray into domestic affairs, but Ireland’s man on Brussels’ 28-strong executive couldn’t resist after being asked about Rees-Mogg’s claim that the British government could place tariffs of up to 70 percent on Irish beef if it doesn’t secure a wider Brexit deal.

Could Be Worse, We Could Be Negotiating With Rees-Mogg, EU Says

“We should call their bluff,” Rees-Mogg said of EU negotiators, according to the Express newspaper on Sunday.

“That’s why we’re very pleased in the European Union that we’re dealing with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, not with Mr. Rees-Mogg,” Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan told a news conference in Brussels on Monday.

Rees-Mogg, a backbench lawmaker in May’s Conservatives, emerged from the 2016 referendum as the party’s leading voice against watering down Brexit. He’s regularly tipped as a future leader should May be ousted.

He said that high tariffs on Irish beef would “bankrupt Ireland,” that the U.K. wouldn’t pay the 39 billion pounds ($54 billion) Brexit financial settlement if it didn’t get a deal and that it isn’t Britain’s responsibility to find a solution to keep the Irish border invisible.

And as for the substance of those remarks?

“We’re not going to speculate on a lot of speculative statements that he makes on a regular basis,” Hogan said.

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