Brexit: Philip Hammond calls EU 'the enemy' in extraordinary outburst

Chancellor urges Tory colleagues to stop squabbling amongst themselves over Brexit, and unite against Brussels to secure the best deal for Britain

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 13 October 2017 17:13 BST
Philip Hammond: The EU is the "enemy"

Philip Hammond has expressed regret for referring to the EU as “the enemy” in Brexit negotiations, in an extraordinary outburst likely to cause major divisions with European leaders.

The Chancellor issued a prompt tweet apologising for a “poor choice of words” in an interview where he urged his Tory colleagues to stop squabbling amongst themselves, and to unite against the EU to secure the best withdrawal deal for Britain.

After coming under fire for supposedly holding up the EU divorce talks, Mr Hammond insisted he was “all signed up” to Brexit and dismissed “bizarre” and “absurd” accusations from eurosceptics that he was talking down Britain’s economy.

Speaking as he attended meetings in Washington, he told Sky News: “My message is this: I understand that passions are high and I understand that people have very strong views about this, but we’re all going to the same place.

“We all have the same agenda, we all signed up to the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech, we’re all signed up to the Article 50 letter, we’re all behind the speech that she made in Florence.

“The enemy, the opponents are out there, they’re on the other side of the negotiating table. Those are the people we have to negotiate with, negotiate hard to get the very best deal for Britain.”

However, shortly afterwards he made a rapid U-turn, posting on Twitter: “In an interview today, I was making the point that we are united at home. I regret I used a poor choice of words.

“We will work with our friends and partners in the EU on a mutually beneficial Brexit deal #noenemieshere.”

Mr Hammond has become the focal point of ire for pro-Brexit Tories over his reluctance to spend millions of pounds preparing for the event that Britain walks away with no deal from the EU.

Downing Street dismissed reports of rift between Theresa May and the Chancellor, saying the Prime Minister had “full confidence” in Mr Hammond – despite calls from senior Tories for him to be sacked.

In a Westminster briefing, Ms May’s spokeswoman said the two had a “very good working relationship”. Asked if the Prime Minister has full confidence in Mr Hammond, the spokeswoman replied: “Yes.”

It comes after former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson said his behaviour was “very close to sabotage” over Brexit and branded his lack of preparation for no deal as “grossly irresponsible”.

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