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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
Press releases

Philip Hammond defies Theresa May to call for cross-party soft Brexit 'consensus'

2 min read

Philip Hammond has called for a cross-party "consensus" to get a soft Brexit deal passed by the Commons - despite Theresa May's hopes that her own agreement could yet be backed by MPs.

The Chancellor said "compromise" would be needed across Parliament in order to avoid the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

He made the surprise comments as he delivered a Spring Statement in which he warned a no-deal Brexit would damage the economy.

MPs comprehensively rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal for a second time on Tuesday evening, throwing the Prime Minister's plans into chaos.

On Wednesday night, the Commons will vote on whether to rule out leaving without a deal on 29 March, and a further vote is likely on Thursday evening on whether to delay Brexit past that date.

Mr Hammond said: "Last night’s events mean we are not where I hoped we would be today. Our economy is fundamentally robust, but the uncertainty that I hoped we would lift last night, still hangs over us.

"We cannot allow that to continue: It is damaging our economy and it is damaging our standing and reputation in the world. Tonight, we have a choice: we can remove the threat of an imminent no-deal exit hanging over our economy.

"Tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus across this House for a deal we can collectively support, to exit the EU in an orderly way to a future relationship that will allow Britain to flourish - protecting jobs and businesses."

However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister tried to play down suggestions of a rift between her and the Chancellor.

He said: "I'd point you back to the PM's words last night. She said that the House faces choices in the coming days. She has set out her clear determination to leave with a deal, she thinks that is the best outcome for the country.

"If we are to do that, that will mean finding common ground and a way forward. As far as I could see, that's what the Chancellor was saying."

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