Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Chancellor lays bare Cabinet infighting as rivals try to sabotage soft Brexit

Philip Hammond claims damaging stories about him come from ‘people who are not happy with the agenda that I have’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 16 July 2017 10:25 BST
Philip Hammond was asked why Cabinet colleagues are ‘going for you’
Philip Hammond was asked why Cabinet colleagues are ‘going for you’ (PA)

Philip Hammond has laid bare cabinet infighting over Brexit, suggesting other ministers are out to get him because he is pushing for Theresa May to change course.

The Chancellor said damaging stories about him were coming from “people who are not happy with the agenda that I have”, which is to steer Britain towards a transitional exit deal.

The claim came as Mr Hammond all but admitted he had told the Cabinet that public sector workers are “overpaid” – while denying he said “even a woman” can drive a train.

The leaks of his remarks in cabinet meetings have made front-page headlines in recent days, prompting claims they are coming from rival ministers.

Asked why colleagues are “going for you”, Mr Hammond said: “If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda that I have – over the last few weeks – tried to advance, of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit which is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs and making sure we can have continued rising living standards in the future.”

The Chancellor said he did not know if the stories were being placed in newspapers by “hard core Brexiteers”.

Asked, on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, if a leadership contest to succeed Ms May is underway, he replied: “I certainly hope not – and if there is I’m no part of it.”

The Chancellor lashed out at his Cabinet rivals as he dismissed Brexiteer claims of a windfall from leaving the EU, after the notorious promises of an extra £350m a week for the NHS.

He pointed out that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility had simply estimated money “might be used for different purposes”, either at home, or for some EU programmes.

“Broadly speaking, the amount of money will remain the same. They haven’t budgeted for a bonus from leaving the European Union,” Mr Hammond pointed out.

He again urged colleagues to accept the need for a lengthy transitional period, after exit day in March 2019, to put in new IT systems and extra staff to cope with tougher trading arrangements.

“These things can’t be magicked up overnight,” the Chancellor said – targeting ministers apparently happy for Britain to “crash out” if necessary.

He also sought to slap down Conservatives insisting Britain need not pay a penny to cover its outstanding obligations to the EU, a key stumbling block in the exit talks.

“If there is any amount that is due, when it’s been properly accounted and audited for, of course we will deal with it. We are not a country that walks away from our debts,” Mr Hammond said.

However, he agreed talk of a €100bn (£87m) payout was a “ridiculous figure”, which Britain would not sign up to.

The Chancellor also insisted he was winning the battle on Brexit, saying: “I think the Cabinet is coming much closer together on issues like transition”.

It was a “new concept” when he first raised it, but “now you find that pretty much everybody around the Cabinet table accepts that there will be some kind of transition”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in