Philip Hammond in swipe at Boris Johnson as he says he would not serve in no-deal Brexit Cabinet
Philip Hammond has taken a veiled swipe at Conservative leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson, as he confirmed he would “not be able to serve” under a Prime Minister pushing for Britain to leave the EU without a deal.
Arriving at a summit of European finance ministers in Luxembourg, the Chancellor also hit out at Mr Johnson's suggestion that the UK could withhold the £39bn due as part of the Brexit divorce bill if he becomes Tory leader.
Asked whether he could serve in a Cabinet led by Boris Johnson, Mr Hammond said: “I don’t think this is about personalities, it’s about policies.
“Before I could serve in any government I would want to look at the policies that the Prime Minister was setting out.
“I would not be able to serve in any government that had as its policy leaving the European Union without a deal.”
Mr Johnson - who this week won the backing of 114 Conservative MPs in the party’s first leadership ballot - has vowed to take the UK out of the EU “deal or no deal” at the end of October if he becomes Prime Minister.
“It is only by preparing for and raising awareness of no-deal that we can ensure that we do not resort to that option,” he said at his campaign launch this week.
The former Foreign Secretary has also suggested that he could withhold Britain’s £39bn divorce payment from the EU unless the bloc agrees to reopen the withdrawal agreement and renegotiate the Brexit deal thrashed out by Theresa May.
But Mr Hammond warned: “We’ve always said that the UK is a country which honours its obligations.”
And the Chancellor added: “At least part of the sum which was agreed to be paid is part of our obligations under the existing [EU budget] so I would not recommend any of my colleagues to threaten to withhold payments which are part of an existing obligation that the UK has.”
Mr Johnson’s claim that he could use the £39bn to extract concessions from the EU has already been given a frosty reception by Emmanuel Macron.
A source close to the French president said this week: "Not honouring your payment obligations is a failure of international commitments equivalent to a sovereign debt default, whose consequences are well known.”
Meanwhile the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the plan would ”not only hurt the UK's credibility as an international partner” but “contradicts what almost every lawyer in the UK thinks about it”.
Mr Hammond’s latest intervention came after he urged Tory leadership candidates to public commit to the Government’s existing budget rules or risk the party’s "hard-won" reputation for fiscal competence.
In an open letter, he wrote: "If we do not commit to getting our debt down after a nine-year run of uninterrupted economic growth, how can we demonstrate a dividing line between the fiscal responsibility of our party and the reckless promises of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn?”