Jacob Rees-Mogg hosts champagne party after May Brexit defeat

ERG chair invited ‘relieved’ Brexiter MPs home for drinks after May’s historic defeat

Jacob Rees-Mogg hosted a champagne party for Brexiter colleagues on Tuesday night following the Commons vote that inflicted the worst defeat in modern history upon a UK prime minister.

David Davis, the minister in charge of the Brexit deal for two years until July, the Labour MP Kate Hoey, the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, and Boris Johnson were among more than 30 MPs invited to the grade II-listed home of Rees-Mogg, who chairs the hardline European Research Group (ERG).

The gathering was held less than two hours after members of the group helped reject Theresa May’s deal by a majority of 230.

Some MPs questioned whether it was appropriate to hold such a party while Britain still had no clear plan for dealing with Brexit.

The Conservative MP Rees-Mogg and the ERG have been instrumental in coordinating pro-Brexit MPs against the prime minister’s deal. Members opposed the deal for a number of reasons, including the Irish backstop agreement and the continued role of the European court of justice.

The party was organised on Tuesday, with invitations sent via a WhatsApp group and by text, one source said. MPs were invited to Rees-Mogg’s six-bedroom family home, which is a five-minute walk from the Palace of Westminster.

Those who attended were greeted with a flute of champagne at the door, and said they felt a “wave of relief” following the rejection of May’s deal.

One person said: “Jacob has held quite a few events at his home following big votes because it is a convenient venue not far from the Palace of Westminster. It was organised at the last minute so there were were no canapes or nibbles, but his wife was a wonderful host.

“Of course the people there were pleased to have rejected the deal, and some were enjoying a drink, but they were mostly relieved to have done the deed of voting down the PM’s deal. In life you sometimes have to do the difficult thing even if it is hard.”

The party occasionally spilled out on to the street, onlookers said. When asked to identify what they were drinking, one partygoer said: “Champagne, of course.”

While Rees-Mogg and the former Welsh secretary Sir John Redwood denied the event was a celebration, the veteran Brexiter Sir Bill Cash did not. “It was a party and a celebration,” he said.

Another partygoer said Hoey, who would be banned from joining the ERG for not being a Tory, was the only Labour MP spotted at the event. Members of the Democratic Unionist party were not present but had attended other Rees-Mogg parties, sources said.

Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary in July over May’s deal, arrived at the party on a bicycle with the lights turned off and his head bowed. The former foreign secretary left the party after an hour, saying to a waiting journalist that he had not had a drink at the event.

On Wednesday, the ERG pledged to support May to vote down Labour’s vote of no confidence. Privately, some of its members expressed anger at May’s reluctance to move towards a hard Brexit.

The former Tory minister Mark Francois, who briefly attended the event, told the BBC the mood at gathering was positive after the vote.

“Obviously we were pleased because we had worked for a long while to defeat this document. The British people voted clearly to leave the European Union so we are trying to honour the instruction that they gave us as members of parliament.”

Others were less complimentary about the gathering. “Jacob Rees Mogg and the Tory Party have plunged the country into crisis over Brexit so this champagne popping party goes to show how out of touch the Tories are,” said Labour MP Rupa Huq.

“While Jacob Rees Mogg sips champagne, Britain is drawing ever closer to a dangerous no-deal exit from the European Union. This must be stopped.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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