Bitter Cabinet row exploded in public as the Chancellor stated his view it is important to not take anything off the table
PHILIP Hammond has lashed out at Cabinet ministers pushing for a hard Brexit to accuse them of “undermining” Theresa May’s negotiating hand.
When quizzed by an influential parliamentary committee he said some MPs are hurting the PM’s position at the upcoming talks by “seeking to close down options”.
Instead of pushing for a soft or hard Brexit – where Britain would no longer be in the European single market – he refused to give much away about the negotiations.
He said: “I do not think we should take anything off the table.
“I don’t think we should concede anything at this time.”
He said the key to ensuring the Brexit negotiations succeed is “keeping as many options open as possible”.
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MPs on the Treasury Select Committee quizzed him about whether he was in favour of free movement of workers in certain jobs – but Hammond responded he was not in favour of this in the way the European Union sees it.
Instead he is in favour of whichever immigration system is set up after Brexit being run so businesses can bring in skilled workers.
When Labour MP John Mann quizzed him about EU nationals being deported over the next five years, he responds by saying he is not implying that deportations could happen.
Instead there would be a “reciprocal agreement” adding: “I would expect that we would reach an agreement.
“If we fail to reach such an agreement then we would have choices to make about how we choose to deal with the European Union nationals in the UK.”
And he refused to say whether the country wanted to remain in the customs union.
He insisted no decision had yet been made on the customs union, amid reports that Cabinet ministers were warned that leaving the arrangement could risk a 4.5% fall in GDP by 2030.
Remaining in the customs union would make it impossible for the UK to strike its own trade deals but Mr Hammond refused to confirm that preliminary discussions about future agreements with other countries meant Britain was committed to leaving it.