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Philip Hammond leads Cabinet exodus before Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister

3 min read

Four Cabinet ministers have quit the Government before Boris Johnson takes over as Prime Minister.

Chancellor Philip Hammond was joined by International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Justice Secretary David Gauke and de facto Deputy PM David Lidington in resigning after Theresa May's final Prime Minister's Questions.

All four Cabinet ministers have been critical of a no-deal Brexit.

In his letter to Mrs May, Mr Hammond - who has urged Mrs May's successor to stick to his deficit reduction promises - said Mr Johnson "must be free to choose a Chancellor who is fully aligned with his policy position".

He added: "We bequeath to our successors genuine choices, once a Brexit deal is done: the ability to choose, within the fiscal rules, between increased public spending, reduced taxes, higher investment or progress towards faster debt reduction - or some combination of all four.

"After a decade when the aftermath of the 2008-09 recession meant we had no choices, this is a luxury which our successors should use wisely."

Mr Lidington said on Twitter: "I shall do all I can to help new govt secure a deal to allow an orderly departure from the EU.

"After more than two decades of collective responsibility I'm now relishing the prospect of speaking & campaigning freely for the things that matter to me & to my constituents."

And in Mr Gauke's resignation letter, he also pressed for Mr Johnson to pursue a deal.

He said: "Of course, we will now have a new Prime Minister and I join you in wishing Boris Johnson well. I very much hope he will achieve his objective of concluding a deal with the EU that Parliament will support.

"In my view, the only responsible way to honour the 2016 referendum result is to leave the EU with a deal and, without such a deal, I fear for the prosperity, security and unity of the United Kingdom.

"Given Boris's stated policy of leaving the EU by 31 October at all costs, I am not willing to serve in his Government. I beleive I can most effectively make the case against a no deal Brexit from the backbenches."

The walkouts followed the exit earlier in the week of Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan and skills minister Anne Milton, who both backed Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The Government's chief whip in the Lords, Lord Taylor, also retired on Wednesday ahead of Mr Johnson's elevation to Number 10.

Mr Hammond, Mr Gauke, and Mr Stewart have all previously signalled that they would quit the Government before Mr Johnson had an opportunity to sack them.

Mr Hammond savaged both Conservative leadership candidates' spending plans during the race for Number 10, and said this weekend: "I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point."

The Chancellor added: "Assuming that Boris Johnson becomes the next prime minister, I understand that his conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on the 31st October and it's not something that I could ever sign up to.

Mr Gauke, the ex-Justice Secretary meanwhile told LBC: "I strongly believe that we should not leave without a deal and that's why I am resigning."

And Mr Stewart, who ran his own ill-fated bid for the Conservative leadership, even threatened to set up his own legislative chamber if Mr Johnson tried to prorogue Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit.

The new Prime Minister is expected to unveil a batch of Cabinet appointments on Wednesday evening, with allies promising a "Cabinet for modern Britain" with a "record number" of ethnic minority politicians and a boost in the number of women attending as full members.

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