Theresa May has vowed to spend taxpayers’ cash immediately on preparing for a no deal Brexit – just minutes after her Chancellor ruled it out.
The Prime Minister opened up a fresh split with her most important Cabinet colleague by telling MPs there would be no delay in funding the emergency plans.
Earlier, Philip Hammond admitted diverting funds would mean less money for the NHS and social care – insisting it would not happen until the “very last moment”, if the need became clear.
But Ms May revealed that “in some cases departments will need to spend money before the relevant legislation has gone through”.
“We are preparing for every eventuality. We are committing money to prepare for Brexit, including a no deal scenario,” she vowed at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Pointing out £250m had already been allocated to the Home Office, environment, transport and other departments, she added: “Where money needs to be spent it will be spent.”
Brexiteers are piling pressure on the Prime Minister to do whatever is necessary to prepare for the growing risk that the negotiations in Brussels will collapse.
One, former Brexit minister David Jones, warned that a failure to earmark funds for extra customs staff and border infrastructure - in next month's Budget - would leave the UK "scrambling" to catch up.
It would be seen as “a sign of weakness" by EU leaders, who would believe the UK is not serious about leaving the EU without a deal, if necessary.
However, speaking to the Treasury select committee earlier, Mr Hammond said he had faced down colleagues who wanted to “send message to EU that we mean business”, by opening the spending taps.
And he warned: “Every pound we spend on contingent preparations for a hard customs border is a pound we can't spend on the NHS, social care, education or deficit reduction.”
A day earlier, the head of the NHS said the health service would be forced to make cuts without a bailout for the health service in next month's Budget.
The issue has become urgent as the exit talks flounder and after the EU said it would also turn to preparing for no deal Brexit, unless there was progress by the New Year.
This week, former senior Home Office officials have warned the department will not be able to cope with the immigration challenges posed by Brexit without one year to prepare.
The 6,500 staff currently working on immigration will not be able to handle the registering the 3.6m EU citizens living in the UK and processing visas for newcomers, they told MPs.
Asked if there was a “contradiction” with her Chancellor, Ms May’s spokesman replied: “The Prime Minister has said clearly the amount of money she thinks is necessary at this stage.”
But another senior Brexiteer, Bernard Jenkin, praised the Prime Minister for slapping down her Chancellor and the Treasury’s “jaundiced” view on Brexit.
“Some of the mixed messages coming out of the Cabinet are the source of the greatest uncertainty” about the withdrawal process,” he told BBC’s Daily Politics.
Asked if Mr Hammond had been put in his place, he replied: “She’s cleared up some of the ambiguity that the Chancellor left, yes, how can I put it more diplomatically than that?”
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