Boris Johnson is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a disorderly exit from the European Union, the ex-chancellor Philip Hammond has claimed.
In a blistering attack on the prime minister, the former Conservative cabinet minister said the “radicals” advising Mr Johnson in Downing Street “do not want a deal” with Brussels.
Mr Hammond, who said he will not be attending the Tories’ annual conference for the first time in 35 years, also claimed the party he first joined is “suffering a convulsion that makes it – for now at least – unrecognisable to me”.
The MP, who had the Tory whip removed for voting against the government to block a no-deal exit from the European Union, wrote in an article for The Times: “Boris Johnson asserts, ever more boldly, that we will leave the EU on 31 October, ‘with or without a deal’.
“But as his sister has reminded us, he is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit – and there is only one outcome that works for them: a crash-out no-deal Brexit that sends the currency tumbling and inflation soaring.
“So they, at least, will be reassured to see no evidence at all that his government has seriously pursued a deliverable deal; still less that it has been pursuing a deal that could get us out by 31 October.”
Speaking earlier this week, Rachel Johnson, the prime minister’s sister, was asked on BBC Radio 4’s World at One who could be behind the strategy to deliver Brexit in any shape or form.
She replied: “It could be Dominic Cummings advising the prime minister to be extremely aggressive and to face down opposition from all sides of the establishment in order to secure his position as the tribune of the people.”
Ms Johnson continued: “It could be coming from my brother himself, he obviously thoroughly enjoys being prime minister. It could be from – who knows – people who have invested billions in shorting the pound or shorting the country in the expectation of a no-deal Brexit. We don’t know.”
Downing Street declined to comment on Mr Hammond’s remarks on the eve of the party’s annual conference when approached by The Independent, but business minister Nadhim Zahawi said they were “completely untrue”.
“Philip, you let yourself down by claiming speculators on no deal are interfering in us leaving the EU. This is an ugly smear that is completely untrue. If you know anything about finance or the City then you will know that,” he said.
Labour MP David Lammy, however, claimed: “It’s official. Philip Hammond in today’s Times confirming that Boris Johnson is committed to a hard Brexit because the disaster capitalists who backed his campaign will make millions.”
In his article for The Times, Mr Hammond added of his party: “Gone is the relaxed, broad-church coalition, united by a belief in free trade, open markets, fiscal discipline and a fear of the pernicious effects of socialism, but tolerant of a wide range of social and political opinion within its ranks.
“In its place is an ideological puritanism that brooks no dissent and is more and more strident in its tone.”
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