Brexit: Philip Hammond refuses to rule out resigning over no-deal Brexit

Pressure mounts on Theresa May to take a no-deal scenario off the table

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 25 January 2019 10:05
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Philip Hammond refuses to rule out resigning if there is a no-deal Brexit

Philip Hammond has refused to rule out resigning from the government if Theresa May decides to pursue a no-deal Brexit.

Pressure is mounting on the prime minister to take a disorderly exit off the table, as the chancellor ramped up his warnings of a “significant hit” to the economy if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.

It comes after Amber Rudd, the pro-EU work and pensions secretary, also hinted she could resign from the frontbench to thwart a no-deal exit from the bloc.

Asked repeatedly whether he would remain in No 11 under that scenario, Mr Hammond told the Today programme: “I’m not going to speculate because a lot depends on the circumstances, what happens.

“The responsibility I have is to manage the economy in what is the best interests of the British people.

“I clearly do not believe that making a choice to leave without a deal would be a responsible thing to do, but I recognise that that is potentially a default that we could find ourselves in, and if we did find ourselves in that position then the responsible thing to do is to use every possible way of mitigating and minimising the impact.”

He doubled down on his gloomy forecasts for a no-deal Brexit, after telling UK business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in Switzerland, that such an outcome would be a “betrayal” that would “undermine prosperity and equally undermine the referendum”.

The prime minister is under intense pressure to find a Brexit approach that can unite the Commons after her Brexit deal was overwhelmingly defeated by MPs last week.

Ms Rudd said she was going to “wait and see” if Ms May allows a free vote on amendments to her plan B on Tuesday, including a significant bid by Labour’s Yvette Cooper to delay Brexit if a deal is not reached by the end of February.

During a BBC Newsnight interview, Ms Rudd was asked three times whether she would quit the cabinet to support Ms Cooper’s cross-party bill, which aims to scrap the possibility of a no-deal scenario.

She said: “At this stage I’m going to stick to trying to persuade the government to allow it to be a free vote. There is a lot taking place and there are a lot of new amendments.

“We’ll have to wait and see.”

In a sign of deep divisions in the cabinet, Brexiteer international development secretary Penny Mordaunt suggested the public was shifting towards the idea of a no-deal scenario, so that Brexit can be carried out.

“You see this shift to no-deal,” she told the Financial Times.

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“It’s not because [voters] particularly want WTO terms, it’s because they want it done.

“That’s not necessarily because that’s their preferred option. But I think the public want to send us a message that, end of March, we expect you to leave the EU, and that is the most important thing. To them, no Brexit is worse than no-deal.”

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