Jacob Rees-Mogg has attacked the Government’s decision to scale back post-Brexit plans to scrap EU laws as “pathetically under-ambitious”.
The former cabinet minister used a speech at the National Conservatism conference on Monday to criticise Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for breaking his promise to complete a “bonfire” of remaining EU-era laws by the end of the year.
The three-day gathering in London will also feature speakers including Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, outspoken Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson and former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost.
“Rishi Sunak made a specific promise to scrap thousands of EU laws,” the Tory MP for North East Somerset said.
“He’s broken that promise. This is very unfortunate as one of his virtues is his trustworthiness and the surrender to the blob risks exposing the Government to ridicule.”
Brexit-backing Tory MPs were angered by a move to revoke around 600 retained EU laws, rather than the 4,000 pledged.
The Government had originally promised a “sunset” clause on all laws carried over from the trade bloc by the end of 2023 under its Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill.
Mr Rees-Mogg said that while the Government “needs to be more ambitious”, it was essential to support it because “the alternative is far worse”.
The loyalist of former prime minister Boris Johnson also appeared to describe the introduction of voter ID as “gerrymandering”.
As a minister, Mr Rees-Mogg defended the introduction of voter IDs in Parliament.
He also railed against high taxes and the “quango state”, condemning the “snooty” House of Lords Appointments Committee for rejecting former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre for a peerage.
On Monday afternoon, Ms Braverman will argue that there is “no good reason” the UK cannot train its own workforce of lorry drivers and fruit pickers, in a speech that will stress the need for overall immigration to the UK to come down.
Ms Braverman will say: “I voted and campaigned for Brexit because I wanted Britain to control migration. So that we all have a say on what works for our country.
“High-skilled workers support economic growth. Fact.
“But we need to get overall immigration numbers down. And we mustn’t forget how to do things for ourselves.
“There is no good reason why we can’t train up enough HGV drivers, butchers or fruit pickers. Brexit enables us to build a high-skilled, high-wage economy that is less dependent on low-skilled foreign labour.
“That was our 2019 manifesto pledge and what we must deliver.”
Miriam Cates opened the conference with a call for families to be encouraged to have more children.
She also claimed “cultural Marxism” was “destroying our children’s souls”.
There has been speculation of a split in Mr Sunak’s Cabinet on immigration, with some members – including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – more keen than others to stress the benefits of migration for economic growth.
It comes ahead of official figures released later in May that are expected to show net migration of between 650,000 and 997,000.
It comes as The Times newspaper reported that Education Secretary Gillian Keegan recently blocked proposals – backed by the Home Secretary – that would have reduced the time foreign students can remain here after finishing a course.
A Government source told the PA news agency that the Education Secretary and the Chancellor had been “robust” on the benefit of foreign students.
The conference comes only days after a similar gathering of Tory MPs and grassroots members in Bournemouth, and after a difficult set of local elections that saw the Conservatives lose nearly 1,000 councillors.
But Mr Sunak is planning his own charm offensive on Monday evening, with Tory MPs invited to a Downing Street reception that will see pies served from the PM’s own North Yorkshire constituency.
Billed as an event to celebrate the coronation, it nonetheless comes amid calls from some Tory MPs for party unity ahead of an anticipated general election next year.