Hammond Accuses Detractors of Pushing for Hardest Brexit

  • Says prime minister needs to be given space to conduct talks
  • Newspapers suggested chancellor might quit amid cabinet split

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond hit back at accusations that his stance on Brexit is sabotaging the government’s efforts to reach a deal, saying that it’s his detractors who are deliberately undermining the negotiations.

Speaking to Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee, the chancellor suggested that some of his colleagues are briefing the press against him in a bid to drive the U.K. toward a “hard Brexit,” in which an end to free movement of labor from European Union countries would take precedence over membership of the single market.

“The best way to support this Brexit process and to get the right Brexit for Britain is to give the prime minister the maximum space for negotiation,” Hammond told the panel in London on Wednesday. “Those that are undermining the effort are those seeking to undermine this negotiating space, who are seeking to arrive at a hard decision.”

A series of U.K. newspaper articles over the weekend carried reports of a split at cabinet level over the direction of the Brexit talks and suggested Hammond’s push for a more measured exit -- in particular less stringent immigration controls -- might lead him to resign. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office was forced to make a declaration of full confidence in her chancellor on Monday.

“It’s no secret that there are different views about how we should approach the negotiation,” Hammond said. Brexit Secretary David Davis and Trade Secretary Liam Fox are both pushing for a clear break with EU, putting them at odds with the chancellor.

He also rejected suggestions the Treasury is being kept out of negotiations by saying he’s at the heart of the process.

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