Rees-Mogg Won’t Insist on Dropping Irish Backstop, Report Says

(Bloomberg) -- Pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg is no longer insisting that the “Irish backstop” be dropped as a condition for supporting Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, he told the Financial Times in an interview.

In a sign that he’s softening opposition to the plan, Rees-Mogg -- the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Conservative Party lawmakers -- said he would consider other legal fixes to ensure the so-called backstop didn’t become permanent, the paper reported. That could be in the form of an appendix to the text, he said.

Rees-Mogg Won’t Insist on Dropping Irish Backstop, Report Says

“I think you can add an appendix without reopening the text,” Rees-Mogg said, according to the Financial Times. “You’d be adding something on at the end, but it’s still part of the text.”

The roughly 90-member ERG contributed to the historic defeat of May’s deal in Parliament last month and will be key to the vote on a revised deal with the EU, expected early next month. The main objection cited by the lawmakers was the backstop aimed at avoiding a new physical border emerging between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain in the EU. 

May on Tuesday promised parliament a vote to rule out a no-deal Brexit and opened the door to a potential delay, in an attempt to mollify Remainer members of her cabinet. The move could also pressure pro-Brexit lawmakers to throw their support behind her.

Rees-Mogg told the paper that the threat of a delay to Brexit had not affected his thinking, and that a three-month extension could allow the U.K. to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.