Brexit boost for May from rebel Rees-Mogg

Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg hinted he may support Theresa May's Brexit plan.
Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg hinted he may support Theresa May's Brexit plan.

One of the most influential pro-Brexit MPs in British Prime Minister Theresa May's party gave the strongest hint that rebels might back her departure deal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said he had not yet made up his mind how to vote on May's deal, but any Brexit was better than staying in the bloc.

"No deal is better than a bad deal but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union in the hierarchy of deals," Rees-Mogg told LBC radio.

"A two-year extension is basically remaining in the European Union," he said.

Rees-Mogg said his dream option would be a no-deal exit on March 29 but that he felt May would seek to stop a no-deal.

If Rees-Mogg did swing behind May, dozens of rebels could follow him, although it is unclear if that would be enough to save her deal.

May is scrambling to rally support ahead of a summit of EU heads of government on Thursday and Friday where she has warned she will ask for a long Brexit delay unless parliament ratifies the deal she struck in November.

May's deal, a bid to keep close trading and security ties with the EU while leaving the bloc's formal political structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15, and by 149 votes on March 12.

To get her deal through parliament, May must win over at least 75 lawmakers - dozens of rebels in her own Conservative Party, some Labour lawmakers, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

The biggest issue is the so-called Northern Irish border backstop, an insurance policy aimed at avoiding post-Brexit controls on the United Kingdom's border with EU-member Ireland.

Many Brexiteers and the DUP are concerned the backstop will trap the United Kingdom in the EU's orbit indefinitely, and have sought guarantees it will not.

Australian Associated Press