Fresh from being switched to the new role as part of last week’s Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Rees-Mogg has vowed no-one will want to rejoin the EU within a decade based on the UK Government’s plan to transform Britain through Brexit.
The Brexiteer said many “big wins” were in the pipeline and the aim was to see “significantly higher” GDP and improved standards of living.
But the SNP branded Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments, made in an interview with the Sunday Express, as a “political stunt” as the party dismissed a published letter from the minister asking readers to suggest what EU regulations they would like to see abolished.
The criticism comes as Downing Street’s newly-appointed senior aide Steve Barclay vowed the UK Government would take a “step back” from people’s lives and pursue “a smaller state”.
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Mr Rees-Mogg said the Government would tackle red tape like “Margaret Thatcher did in the 1980s”. He said: “It will be impossible to go back [to the EU] because our economy will be so transformed that firstly nobody would want to – and secondly, the EU would look at us in horror because we would not be following all their petty rules.”
But the SNP’s Europe spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford said: “This latest political stunt from the recently-demoted minister demonstrates how out of touch he is with the reality of Brexit, which has actually caused an explosion of red tape for any businesses trading with the EU – the irony-meter is off the scale.
“Beyond the rhetoric and false claims in his letter, Jacob Rees-Mogg fails to admit the difficulties that have arisen for so many sectors as a direct result of the Brexit deal he campaigned for. The truth of the matter is he knows how damaging it has been for the financial services industry, which is why he set up a second personal investment fund in Ireland and not in the UK. The man is a hypocrite.
“Firms have been warning the UK Government about the impact of customs delays, soaring costs, red tape and a reduced workforce, but unfortunately people like Jacob Rees-Mogg continue to bury their head in the sand.”
Nicola Sturgeon has been clear that an independent Scotland would immediately seek to rejoin the EU. The SNP and the Scottish Greens are set to draw up and publish a joint government prospectus on independence that will be put to voters in 2023.
Mr Barclay, who was made Boris Johnson’s new chief of staff last week, meanwhile told the Sunday Telegraph while public health interventions and vast amounts spent in the pandemic were the right decisions, it was time for “a more enabling approach”.
“Now it is a priority to restore a smaller state – both financially and in taking a step back from people’s lives,” he said.
But the SNP said Mr Barclay’s would “sound alarm bells across Scotland” over Britain’s direction.
SNP shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss said: “It is deeply concerning that in the middle of a Tory cost-of-living crisis, the Westminster Government is talking about cutting financial support, slashing the size of the state and returning to Thatcherism.”