Philip Hammond tells Boris Johnson no-deal Brexit would be a 'betrayal' as Tory rebels break cover

Posted On: 
14th August 2019

Philip Hammond has told Boris Johnson he risks a "betrayal" of the 2016 Brexit referendum if he leaves the European Union without an agreement.

The former chancellor hit out at "unelected people who pull the strings of this government".
Credit: 
PA

In a highly-charged intervention, the former Chancellor said "unelected" officials in Number 10 had made demands the EU "cannot, and will not, accede to", setting the country on a course for a no-deal Brexit.

And he made clear that he would work with "numerous" other opponents of such an outcome to try and stop it from happening, as he joined 20 other Tory MPs in writing to Mr Johnson to make their views known.

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Writing in The Times, the ex-Chancellor - who quit before he could be sacked by Mr Johnson - said he had "chosen to keep quiet and give the Prime Minister the time and space to set out his plan to deliver a Brexit deal".

But he urged the PM to "deliver on his public and private commitments towards a deal", and said the early signs from Number 10 were "not encouraging".

The former Cabinet minister added: "The move from demanding changes to the backstop to demanding its total removal is a pivot from a tough negotiating stance to a wrecking one. 

"The unelected people who pull the strings of this government know that this is a demand the EU cannot, and will not, accede to."

Mr Johnson has vowed to achieve Brexit "do or die" by 31 October, and has ramped up preparations for a no-deal Brexit in the event that he cannot strike a fresh deal with the European Union, which has ruled out reopening the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May.

But Mr Hammond warned that no-deal was not an "acceptable outcome", as he pushed back at the idea that blocking such an outcome would "challenge the expressed will of the British people".

"To pretend now that 2016 Leave voters voted for a hard no-deal Brexit is a total travesty of the truth," he warned.

The former Chancellor added: "The hardliners may make the most noise but they are not the most numerous. Most people in this country want to see us leave in a smooth and orderly fashion that will not disrupt lives, cost jobs or diminish living standards, whether they voted Leave or Remain in 2016. 

"Parliament faithfully reflects the view of that majority and it will make its voice heard. No-deal would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. It must not happen."

The comments sparked a bitter row with Number 10, as 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."

But the ex-Chancellor swiftly hit back, saying those claims were "wrong".

He added: "I want to deliver Brexit - and voted to do so three times. But ‘No Deal’ is a far cry from the highly optimistic vision presented by the Leave campaign - and there is no mandate for it."

REBEL LETTER

Mr Hammond's intervention came as he joined 20 other senior Tory MPs - including seven ex-Cabinet ministers - in writing a letter to the new Prime Minister 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'."