Rees-Mogg was a minor player during the referendum but now as Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson (who has recently left government) are/were restricted to what they can say (believe it or not), It created a vacuum for Rees-Mogg to step into. Nigel Farage seems to be busy cultivating his relationship with the American President after failing (seven times) to get into parliament and is not seen on television commenting on Brexit as he once was.
The European Research Group (ERG) was set up In July 1993 by Sir Michael Spicer, in response to growing concern about Britain’s continued integration into the European Community through the Maastricht Treaty and its members include David Davies, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Iain Duncan Smith and Sajid Javid among others. Jacob Rees-Mogg took over from Suella Fernandes as the Chair this year (Suella Fernandes resigned as a junior minister on 9th July as she was not happy with the Chequers agreement reached by the Cabinet on 6th July).
Being the Chair of ERG gives Rees-Mogg a platform. No doubt having a number of members of ERG in the cabinet also strengthens and legitimises his stance, and as a result, he can be brazen about challenging Theresa May. The other thing that is going for Rees-Mogg is the strong support for Brexit in the Tory party. A large number of Tory MP’s have been fighting for many years to come out of Europe, and they are putting this particular interest ahead of party loyalty. Theresa May’s government doesn’t have a majority, and after buying support from the DUP, losing core Brexit vote in parliament would only require, I believe, 12 Tories to abstain and the government would lose.
Rees-Mogg and ERG know this, and as a result, he can write articles like the one Sunday gone (8th July) in The Telegraph where he openly challenges Theresa May by stating that a number of Tories will vote against the withdrawal agreement. Effectively this would suggest that the Chequers agreement is dead in the water unless Theresa May stands up to Rees-Mogg and the Brexit pro wing of her party. The time for manoeuvring, cajoling, and side-stepping issues have gone for Theresa May, and it is time for her to stand up and lead. She needs to take control or leave because an indecisive leader that is being pushed around by a Back Bencher can’t be trusted to negotiate possibly the most significant deal in our lifetimes.
We need a proper debate, and now more than ever a peoples vote to decide on what has been negotiated (if anything) we don’t need headlines of Tories fighting between themselves.