Philip Hammond says he is 'confident' MPs can stop Boris Johnson's no-deal Brexit plans

Posted On: 
14th August 2019

Philip Hammond has said he is "very confident" MPs will come up with a way to stop Boris Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a deal in October.

A senior Number 10 source accused the former Chancellor of wanting to "cancel" the 2016 referendum result.
Credit: 
PA

The former Chancellor - who has shied away from public comment since leaving office three weeks ago - warned the new Prime Minister that Parliament would "make its voice heard" in the weeks ahead.

The comments come after he branded no-deal Brexit a "betrayal" of the 2016 referendum result and accused "unelected" advisers to Mr Johnson of pushing him into a more hardline stance.

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And they follow a punchy intervention from Commons Speaker John Bercow, who vowed to "fight with every breath" to prevent Downing Street from proroguing Parliament in order to achieve a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Hammond said: "I'm confident that Parliament has a clear view on this and that Parliament has the means to express that view."

And he added: "I'm very confident that the means exist for Parliament to make its voice heard, and to pass legislation that gives effect to the clear view of Parliament.

"Of course, the mechanisms being there doesn't necessarily and automatically deliver you the majority. In a parliamentary democracy everything depends on whether a majority of members of Parliament are prepared to support something.

"But it's very clear to me, and I think the Speaker of the House of Commons has also been very clear, that if a majority of members of Parliament clearly want to go down a certain route, a means will be delivered to allow that to happen."

The Prime Minister has vowed to achieve Brexit "do or die" by 31 October, and has ramped up preparations for a no-deal outcome in the event that he cannot convince the European Union to reopen the withdrawal agreement.

But the former Chancellor warned Mr Johnson that the Parliamentary arithmetic "hasn't changed" since Theresa May failed three times to get MPs to back the deal she thrashed out with Brussels.

"In fact, it's got slightly worse from the Prime Minister's point of view, so that Boris Johnson is in the same position that Theresa May was in," Mr Hammond said.

And he told the new PM: "He has to listen to Parliament. And Parliament is clearly opposed to a no-deal exit. And the Prime Minister must respect that position. This is a parliamentary democracy."

'WRECKING TACTIC'

Elsewhere the ex-Cabinet minister, who used an op-ed in The Times on Tuesday to hit out at the Downing Street team, said those advising Mr Johnson had adopted a "wrecking tactic" to make a no-deal outcome inevitable.

"We were talking until a few weeks ago about the need to change the terms of backstop," he said.

"And I think, although that would have been an extremely difficult discussion, it was a tough negotiating position.

"But pivoting to say that the backstop has to go in its entirety, a huge chunk of the Withdrawal Agreement just scrapped is effectively a wrecking tactic."

While Mr Hammond did not mention the PM's senior adviser Dominic Cummings by name, he attacked "those who are pulling the strings in Downing Street, those who are setting the strategy".

"Boris Johnson has told me privately, and he's told the country publicly, that he is determined to get a deal and confident that he can get one," he said. 

"But I fear there are other people around him whose agenda is different."

LETTER ROW

Mr Hammond's move to break his silence has already triggered a bitter row with Number 10.

A senior Downing Street source said: "Philip Hammond actively undermined the government’s negotiating position by frustrating and obstructing preparation to leave the EU."

They added: "Everyone knows that the ex-Chancellor’s real objective was to cancel the referendum result."

Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith meanwhile accused Mr Hammond of failing to prepare Britain to leave the EU during his stint as chancellor.

The Brexiteer Conservative told the programme: "By not preparing to leave with no-deal, they made it certain we had to swallow everything the European Union gave us. So the crime has been committed, in political terms... by him and those who did not prepare us to leave.

"That meant we had no negotiating position whatsoever and we were taken to the cleaners by the EU."

He added: "The fact we’re now doing that means we have a much better chance to get some kind of a agreement from them, because they now know we’re going to leave with no deal. And he’s undermining that."

But the intervention came as Mr Hammond joined 20 other senior Tory MPs - including seven ex-Cabinet ministers - in writing a letter to Mr Johnson warning him against leaving the EU without an agreement.

The letter, which has been passed to The Sun, has also been signed by David Lidington, Greg Clark, Rory Stewart and David Gauke.

It says: "We are alarmed by the ‘Red Lines’ you have drawn which, on the face of it appear to eliminate the chance of reaching agreement with the EU.

"Any deal has to be a compromise, and many commentators feel that you have set the bar so high that there is no realistic probability of a deal being done”.

"We would therefore greatly appreciate your confirmation that you remain committed to doing a deal, that you accept that any such deal will most likely require compromise, and that it remains your view that the chance of No Deal is 'less than a million to one'."