Brexit: David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg spar over extending Article 50

24 January 2018, 16:36

Britain might as well extend Article 50 for another two years because its transition terms are so close to membership, David Davis has been told.

Arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg made the comments as he tried to skewer the Government over its divorce plans.

He suggested the UK would be a "vassal state" during the "implementation" phase of Brexit, expected to last between 18 and 24 months.

And he branded the Brexit Secretary's answers "weak" in the showdown at a select committee.

Committee member Mr Rees-Mogg asked: "If on 30 March 2019, the UK is subject to the jurisdiction of the ECJ, takes new rules related to the single market and is paying into the European budget, are we not a vassal state?"

Mr Davis replied: "If that were going to be the case in perpetuity, my answer would probably be yes, but the answer for a short time, no."

But his backbench colleague said it was "hard to think of any precedent in the world" for a country to follow judgements imposed by another nation's courts without a judge to represent itself.

The North East Somerset MP said it amounted to the UK being "de factor in the EU for two more years", asking "why aren't we just extending Article 50?"

Article 50 is the trigger that the UK invoked in March 2017 to leave the EU within two years.

Mr Davis said the "massive difference" between Britain's terms as a member and what it will be subject to during the transition was its ability to make international trade deals.

"If we do it this way, they will come into effect very soon after conclusion in 2020/2021," he said. "If we extend our membership we will not be able to."

He eventually conceded: "You call it what you like."

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the pair's "bickering" was "the starkest evidence yet" that a transition deal was "far from secure".

But former UKIP leader Nigel Farage praised Mr Mogg for "holding the Government to account on Brexit backsliding". "At least someone is," he added.

Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, warned later in a speech to MEPs that the UK would be a "dwarf" on the world stage outside the EU.

"We are all dwarfs," he said. "Some know it, some for the moment have not the knowledge to know it but they are going to know it fairly fast, I think that's the reality."