Shut down Parliament to block rebel plans to delay Brexit, Rees-Mogg suggests

Theresa May should shut down Parliament completely if a rebel backbench attempt to remove the threat of a no-deal Brexit is successful, Jacob Rees-Mogg has has said.

The leading Tory Brexiteer said that the Government must use its powers of "prorogation" to block a cross-party attempt to extend Article 50 to create more time to find a workable deal with Brussels.

Such a move would be a massive constitutional step as it would involve the agreement of the Queen to bring the current session of Parliament to a premature end.

He told a meeting of the hardline eurosceptic Bruges Group that an amendment tabled by Labour's Yvette Cooper and Tory Nick Boles was a "constitutional outrage" supported by MPs who wanted to prevent Brexit from happening at all.

He said that no-deal could only be taken off the table if the Government "connived in doing it".

He added: "If the House of Commons undermines our basic constitutional conventions then the executive is entitled to use other vestigial constitutional means to stop it.

"By which I basically mean prorogation. And prorogation normally lasts for three days but any law that is in the process before prorogation falls.

"And I think that would be the Government's answer, that is the Government's backstop, to use a choice phrase."

Asked about the North-East Somerset MP's suggestion, Theresa May's official spokesman told reporters: "It is not something that I am aware has ever been discussed in Number 10."

According to the parliamentary website prorogation is usually done by the Queen on behalf of the Privy Council and "brings to an end nearly all parliamentary business".

However it noted that some bills can be carried over to the next session "subject to agreement".

Mr Rees-Mogg lashed out at the Copper-Boles amendment, which seeks time for a bill to suspend the withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.

He also attacked those seeking a second referendum, saying, to applause from the approximately 300 people present: "We are facing a really important point in our constitutional history because there are people who are trying very hard to stop Brexit.

"They have 65 days ... in which to do it.

"They are going to do everything that they can in that remaining time not to delay Brexit, not to get a deal, but to keep us bound to the European Union.

"That is what the Yvette Cooper bill is about, it's what the losers' vote is about, it is in relation to stopping us leaving."

Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives to make a speech at a meeting of the Bruges Group on Wednesday (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Rees-Mogg also said that he could not accept a deal unless the backstop was removed.

He said it was realpolitik to suggest "if the only way to get it is by reopening the text, that is what they will have to do".

He warned that he and other Brexiteers were on alert for "meaningless soft soap" and wanted firm changes, adding: "If they do that then people like me will consider what is done.

"But what people like me are not saying is here is a blank cheque to get a few more words and then suddenly we will change our minds.

"It has to be legally binding."

Mr Rees-Mogg was accused of "running scared".

Labour's Virendra Sharma, a Best for Britain supporter, said: "Take back control seems to have morphed into suspending parliamentary democracy. This smells like a parliamentary coup.

"All of this is because he knows the momentum in Parliament and in the country is for a public vote on Brexit.

"But no one could have expected him to declare war on Parliament."

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