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Brexit setback proof ERG Emperor Jacob Rees-Mogg has no clothes



Perhaps Jacob Rees-Mogg has no clothes.

I’m sorry to conjure that image for you, but that, in a metaphorical sense, is where the emperor of the European Research Group (ERG) – the faction of hard-line pro-Brexit Tory MPs – would seem to be.

The realisation is setting in that the prime minister’s critics have not managed to pull the 48 letters required to challenge her out of a hat.

As a result, the ERG event this morning, launching a new “fact checking” document on world trade and the customs union – “Fact, not friction” – felt like a gathering of the defeated.

Jacob Rees-Mogg insists that sending letters of no confidence in the Tory leader to Sir Graham Brady does not constitute a 'coup'.


The chair of the European Research Group reiterates the legitimacy of the process to unseat Theresa May

As much as the assembled group, including former Brexit Secretary David Davis, wished to engage on the issues, they were repeatedly drawn on their failure to mount a successful coup.

The irony is that the ERG, far from toppling Theresa May, have marginally enhanced her authority, whilst diminishing their own.

The only card they had – and it was a potent one – was the menace of mustering letters. For the short term at least, that threat would seem to have passed and the prime minister is safer.

Moreover, their failure and their self-evident lack of organisational ability has reduced their status.

Wavering MPs who might have considered backing a putsch are thinking if they can’t do this, what hope of them actually delivering a successful Brexit?

Their disorder reinforces Mrs May’s own most powerful card – that of a quiet resilience and order.

That there is no sensible alternative. The sense that her opponents are hopeless.

It’s what got her the job in the first place. For now, it’s why she’s keeping it.

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