EXCL Jacob Rees-Mogg hits back at Amber Rudd in Brexit deal 'sexism' row
Jacob Rees-Mogg has hit back at Amber Rudd after she claimed there was a "whiff of sexism" about the way Tory Brexiteers are ready to back Boris Johnson's Brexit deal after rejecting Theresa May's.
The House of Commons leader said he and his former colleagues in the hardline European Research Group hated the agreement negotiated by the former Prime Minister because it was "hopeless", not as a result of her gender.
Ms Rudd - who quit Mr Johnson's Cabinet and the Conservative Party over his approach to Brexit - rounded on the ERG in an interview on Tuesday with Radio 5Live.
She said people would "draw their own conclusions" as to why the same people who hated Mrs May's deal now support Mr Johnson's, even though it will not be much different.
"I think there absolutely is a whiff of sexism," she said. "It is difficult to fillet out... how much is about a more trusting relationship that they clearly have with Boris Johnson, because he himself was very much part of that ERG group in terms of wanting a harder Brexit than the former Prime Minister wanted, but I do feel as a woman who's active in politics myself, that there is a whiff of sexism."
But in an interview with The House magazine, Mr Rees-Mogg rejected Ms Rudd's allegation.
He said: "I think - what was it Dr Johnson said about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel - that just because you disagree with someone who happens to be a woman, doesn’t make you sexist.
"Most of the members of the ERG, and some of them served her, thought that Margaret Thatcher was the greatest leader this country has had post-war and would have backed her to the hilt because they trusted her and thought she had the country’s interests at heart.
"Theresa May did not inspire that kind of confidence. That’s not sexist, that’s just a political reality. She came up with a deal that was hopeless."
He said Mr Johnson's proposal for removing the backstop arrangement aimed at maintaining an open border in Ireland was a "fundamental change" from Mrs May's deal.
"The previous government gave away a great deal which it has proved quite difficult to claw back, not least because of the Surrender Bill which reinforced the EU’s negotiating position," he said.
"I think Amber makes a mistake in crying sexism over political disagreement. Is the fact that I don't agree with Jeremy Corbyn on almost anything make me anti-men?"
*The full interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg will appear in The House magazine later this week.