‘EU must be laughing’ Boris urged to spark bureaucracy ‘bonfire’ – with key Brexit move

Brexit: Rees-Mogg says he has ‘no buyer’s remorse’

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Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe issued the straightforward verdict in the wake of remarks by Jacob Rees Mogg. Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the Cabinet Office minister – whose portfolio includes delivering the benefits of Brexit – offered assurances that he was targeting red tape with Britain now no longer restricted by EU rules.

However, Ms Widdecombe suggested little could be achieved without tackling the thorny issue of the Protocol, the mechanism agreed between the UK and the EU which aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland by keeping Northern Ireland in the bloc’s single market for goods.

She told Express.co.uk: “I would say, first of all, we need make a bonfire of bureaucracy.

“This is something they have utterly failed to do and it is getting worse, if anything.

“Secondly, I know we have just had the budget, but we’re now free to do what we like with the VAT.

“I think it is about time we did something revolutionary with that.

“They haven’t done that yet and so they’re not taking advantage of the freedoms at all.”

The existence of the Protocol has complicated matters significantly, with Mr Johnson widely understood to have backtracked on a pledge to cut VAT from energy bills made during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016.

EU rules state that once goods or services have been subject to VAT, they cannot be exempted, and neither can the rate be cut without the unanimous agreement of all members of the EU27.

As far as the UK is concerned, problems arise because Northern Ireland is still subject to EU laws when it comes to VAT in accordance with Annex 2 of the Protocol.

Ms Widdecombe said: “That is why Boris should never have agreed to the Protocol.

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“We’ve got to start treating Northern Ireland as part of the UK which it is, it’s not part of the EU.

“If we did that, the VAT problems would be solved.

“The EU is laughing at us. It’s using Northern Ireland to stop us making the most of Brexit.”

Mr Rees-Mogg responded to remarks by SNP Cabinet Office spokesman Brendan O’Hara, who said: “Hearing of Brexit opportunities reminds me of that classic Abbott and Costello comedy Foreign Legion, when Bud and Lou get lost in the desert and they come across an ice cream parlour that everybody knows to be a mirage except them – and that is exactly what this is.

“This is a mirage, to the extent indeed that many of our performers are now having to rely on the charity Help Musicians for a £5,000 grant so they can afford to take their performances to Europe.

“So why do our performers now require charitable help? And what happened to that promised post-Brexit bonfire of red tape?”

Cabinet Office minister Mr Rees-Mogg began to reply: “Mr Speaker, in 1661…” before SNP MPs called on him to respond to the question.

He continued: “Let’s get back to 1661, because in 1661, outside in Old Palace Yard, the public executioner took all the Acts that were passed by the illegitimate Cromwellian parliament and burned them.

“I have to say I would like to do something similar to what was done between 1972 and our departing from the European Union.

“And we are building up the kindling wood thanks to the readers of the Sun who are sending in their brilliant suggestions.”

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