Philip Hammond calls for jobs and growth to be priorities in fresh soft Brexit hint
Philip Hammond has called for jobs, economic growth and prosperity to be the Government's priorities in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
In a fresh sign of his desire to see a so-called "soft Brexit", the Chancellor said his "clear view" was that most people in the country backed his approach.
Critics of Theresa May's strategy have said that her desire for Britain to sever all ties with the EU single market and customs union, while aiming to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, will be disastrous for the economy.
Brexiteer ministers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox back the Prime Minister, but they are opposed within the Cabinet by Mr Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Mr Davis will formally kick-off the Brexit negotiations on Monday when he holds talks with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Speaking as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting of EU finance ministers, Mr Hammond said the Prime Minister's approach on the single market and customs union were still the “broad principles” of the Government’s position.
But he also insisted that the UK’s negotiating team would take “a pragmatic approach, trying to find a solution that works” for both Britain and the EU.
He added: "It is a negotiation. And as we go into that negotiation, my clear view and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain is we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiation and taking them forward."
Meanwhile, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has written to David Davis urging the Government to drop its "belligerent and reckless" approach to leaving the EU.
He said the result of the general election, which saw the Conservatives lose their Commons majority, meant there should be a re-think of the Government strategy.
"It is clear that the Government can no longer seek to silence opposition or sideline parliament. There must be a new spirit of openness and transparency, in which challenge and scrutiny are welcomed," he wrote.
"Labour has been clear that jobs and the economy must be the priority for negotiations. The Prime Minister’s inflexible approach to these matters makes a good deal for Britain less likely, not more likely."