Theresa May slaps down Philip Hammond as Tory civil war erupts over Brexit

Posted On: 
26th January 2018

Theresa May has publicly rebuked Philip Hammond after he said there should only be "modest changes" in Britain's relationship with the EU after Brexit.

Theresa May has a strained relationship with Philip Hammond.
PA Images

The Chancellor's remarks, which he made in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, sparked a furious reaction from many Conservative MPs.

Mr Hammond said: "We are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly apart."

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Philip Hammond sparks furious Tory backlash with call for 'very modest' Brexit

He said using the EU trade deal with Canada as a base would be throwing away "all the benefits we have of the complete alignment of our regulatory systems".

And on migration he added: “We want to maintain the closest possible relationship in people to people exchanges."

But in a swipe at the Chancellor, a Downing Street source said: "The Government’s policy is that we are leaving the single market and the customs union.

"Whilst we want a deep and special economic partnership with the EU after we leave, these could not be described as very modest changes."

Conservative MPs took to social media to voice their displeasure at Mr Hammond.

Former minister Andrew Percy wrote on Instagram: "Oh put a sock in it, Phil. Getting a bit sick of 'Freelancing Phil' mocking other Cabinet ministers and writing his own Brexit policy. Brexit means nothing if we don't end free movement rule and take the power to diverge if we judge it in our interests."

Tory eurosceptic Bernard Jenkin hinted that the Chancellor should be sacked, telling the BBC: I don't particularly want there to have to be another reshuffle but maybe she needs another reshuffle in order to give herself more ministers who support her policy."

In a speech last night, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the influential European Research Group of Tory backbenchers, said the Government's approach to Brexit "needs to fundamentally change.".

He said: “If [Brexit's opportunities are] taken off the table then Brexit becomes only a damage limitation exercise. The British people did not vote for that. They didn't vote for management of decline."


Meanwhile, David Davis will use a speech today to say Britain must be allowed to sign its own trade deals during any post-Brexit transition period.

In a major speech, he will say: "Of course, maintaining access to each other's markets on current terms means we will replicate the effects of the EU customs union during the implementation period. But participating in a customs union should not preclude us from formally negotiating — or indeed signing — trade agreements.

"Although, of course, they would not enter into force until the implementation period has ended."