Pressure grows on Theresa May to axe her Brexit Chancellor

Hammond gets both barrels from Boris: Open warfare breaks out in Cabinet as pressure grows on Theresa May to axe her Brexit ‘road-block’ Chancellor

  • Cabinet in warfare after Boris Johnson said Chancellor was trying to block Brexit
  •  Foreign Secretary branded Philip Hammond’s Treasury ‘the heart of Remain’
  • The comments will pile pressure on Theresa May to sack her Chancellor
  • Johnson dismissed warnings of economic impact of leaving as ‘mumbo jumbo’

The Cabinet was in open warfare last night after Boris Johnson accused the Chancellor of trying to block Brexit.

In an extraordinary intervention, the Foreign Secretary branded Philip Hammond’s Treasury ‘the heart of Remain’.

The comments will pile pressure on the Prime Minister to sack her Chancellor.

Mr Johnson also warned that the Government was in danger of delivering a Brexit betrayal and dismissed Treasury warnings about the economic impact of leaving as ‘mumbo jumbo’.

And, in a swipe at Theresa May, he suggested Donald Trump would make a better job of negotiating Brexit, saying: ‘He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere.’

The Cabinet was in open warfare last night after Boris Johnson accused the Chancellor Phillip Hammond of trying to block Brexit

The comments will pile pressure on the Prime Minister Theresa May to sack her Chancellor

The Foreign Secretary also suggested he would resign if Mrs May agreed to a final deal that left the UK shackled to Brussels. ‘I will be prepared to compromise over time, but I will not compromise over the destination,’ he said.

Two Cabinet sources yesterday told the Daily Mail that Mr Hammond was undermining the UK’s position by stalling on preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

One senior Eurosceptic said: ‘Everything he does is designed to damage Brexit. Every morning he gets up and thinks about how he can delay it or stop it.’

Mr Johnson’s comments last night threatened to overshadow Mrs May’s attendance at the G7 summit in Canada. They emerged as she was in the air, and there was no immediate response from her closest aides.

It came on a day of heightened tensions over Brexit, pushing the Government to the brink of chaos. In other developments:

  • Mrs May was forced to make Brexit concessions to David Davis after he threatened to resign over plans which critics fear could keep Britain in the EU by the back door;
  • Pro-Brussels MPs warned they could still join forces with Labour next week in a bid to keep Britain in the customs union;
  • Mr Johnson breached protocol by revealing that Mrs May will use the G7 summit to unveil plans for a new ‘rapid response unit’ to counter Russian cyber-attacks and assassinations;
  • The Foreign Secretary warned that China would ‘try and stiff us’ in trade talks.

In an extraordinary intervention, the Foreign Secretary branded Philip Hammond’s Treasury ‘the heart of Remain’.

Whitehall insiders acknowledged that the Government was facing turmoil as a result of Brexit. One said: ‘It is absolute chaos.’

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Brexit had turned into a ‘complex and sometimes turbulent episode in this country’s history’. Mr Johnson’s comments, which were secretly recorded at a private dinner for Tory donors, blew the lid off the toxic row between Cabinet Brexiteers and the Chancellor.

A recording of Tuesday night’s dinner, obtained by BuzzFeed, reveals that Mr Johnson believes Brexit is in peril.

But Boris deputy says second vote on cards! 

Boris Johnson’s deputy sparked fresh Brexit turmoil last night by suggesting there could be a second Brexit vote.

Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office minister, said a referendum on the final deal would be ‘possible’.

Speaking in Berlin, Sir Alan said: ‘It would just be possible to ask the people in a referendum if they liked the exit deal or not. But that would mean the choice would be between the exit deal on offer or having no deal at all.It would not in reality offer people the option of reversing the original decision.’

It comes as this morning, arch-Remain group Best for Britain, backed by billionaire financier George Soros, launchs a campaign for what it calls a ‘people’s vote’ on the final deal to help resolve the ‘nightmare of Brexit’.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that the minister had made clear in his speech that the idea of a second vote on EU withdrawal was ‘a myth’. 

 

He told the Conservative Way Forward group there was now a high chance that Mrs May would cross her own Brexit red lines and leave the UK ‘locked in orbit around the EU, in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market.’ He said the outcome was being pushed by the Treasury, which was ‘basically the heart of Remain’.

Mr Johnson warned that ministers were ‘allowing the tail to wag the dog’ over the issue of the Northern Ireland border that is threatening to keep Britain shackled to the customs union. He acknowledged that Brexit would mean ‘some bumps in the road’ for the economy. But he said prophecies of doom in the Treasury and Whitehall were overblown. ‘What they don’t want is friction at the borders,’ he said. ‘They don’t want any disruption of the economy. So they’re sacrificing all the medium and long-term gains out of fear of short-term disruption. He added: ‘They’re terrified of this nonsense. It’s mumbo jumbo.’

Mr Johnson hinted that Mrs May was poised to take a tougher stance in negotiations which could lead to a temporary ‘meltdown’ in talks.

‘I think Theresa is going to go into a phase where we are much more combative with Brussels,’ he said. ‘You’ve got to face the fact there may now be a meltdown. OK? I don’t want anybody to panic during the meltdown. No bloody panic. It’s going to be all right in the end.’

Eurosceptic MPs last night backed Mr Johnson.

Former Brexit minister David Jones said: ‘Once you strip away the Boris style, what you’re left with is some pretty sensible points.’ Fellow Tory Andrew Bridgen said: ‘Boris is rightly articulating the fears of many of us who support leaving the EU.’

Mr Hammond faced a Cabinet revolt last year when a string of ministers, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid, urged him to open the purse strings to allow Brexit preparations to begin.

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The Foreign Secretary also suggested he would resign if Mrs May agreed to a final deal that left the UK shackled to Brussels. ‘I will be prepared to compromise over time, but I will not compromise over the destination,’ he said 

The Chancellor appeared to relent in November when he used the Budget to announce he would release £3billion for Brexit preparations, including no-deal planning.

But some ministers say they are still say they are meeting resistance from the Treasury over access to funds needed to get the country ready to leave at the end of March next year. Eurosceptics fear that failure to prepare for no deal will play into the hands of the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

One Cabinet source said: ‘We are probably already at the point where it is getting difficult to leave without a deal.’

The Treasury flatly denied the Chancellor was trying to sabotage Brexit.

Friends of Mr Johnson last night said he had never wanted his criticism to be made public. ‘This was a private dinner under Chatham House rules so it is sad and very disappointing that it has been covertly recorded and distributed to the media,’ a source said. 

Boris off the leash  

Boris on Trump:

 ‘I am increasingly admiring of Donald Trump. I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness.

‘Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard…

‘There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.’

Boris on Brexit approaching a ‘moment of truth’ and arguments within party:

‘I’m not going to hide it from you. There is an argument going on.’

He said Brexit would happen ‘and I think it will be irreversible.’ But added: ‘The risk is that it will not be the one we want.’

‘There’s a high chance of Britain ending up with an arrangement that violates many of the Brexiteers’ ‘red lines’, keeping it ‘locked in orbit around the EU, in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market.

‘So not really having full freedom on our trade policy, our tariff schedules, and not having freedom with our regulatory framework either.’

Boris on the Treasury:

‘Basically the heart of Remain.’

Boris on Remainers:

‘What they don’t want is friction at the borders. They don’t want any disruption of the economy. So they’re sacrificing all the medium and long-term gains out of fear of short-term disruption. Do you see what I’m saying? The fear of short-term disruption has become so huge in people’s minds that they’ve turned into a quivering wreck.

‘They’re terrified of this nonsense. It’s mumbo jumbo.’

Boris on Brexit issues being overblown:

‘Yeah, of course. There will be some bumps in the road,’ he said. But ‘prophecies of doom’ about disruption of customs are ‘pure millennium bug stuff’.

‘All the planes crashing from the sky. It’s absolute nonsense.’

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