Top Tory MPs urge Theresa May to end negative Cabinet briefings against Philip Hammond
A leading Tory MP has called on Theresa May to call off the “attack dogs” amid reports Cabinet ministers are briefing against Philip Hammond over Brexit.
Former business minister Anna Soubry has teamed up with former education secretary Nicky Morgan in urging the Prime Minister to stop attacks on Mr Hammond being leaked to the press.
Mr Hammond has been subjected to negative reports from pro-Brexit ministers after he warned about the economic impact of a proposed new work permit system to prevent unskilled EU immigrants coming to the UK.
He has also reportedly cautioned against a so-called “Hard Brexit” that is thought to be advocated by Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis.
And this week Downing Street slapped down the Chancellor after he said foreign students could be excluded from immigration statistics.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Ms Soubry said Mr Hammond was “one powerful voice of reason” within the Cabinet and called on Downing Street to respect his authority.
She argued “No 10 is out to isolate or intimidate” Mr Hammond, adding: “Instead of turning their attack dogs on our business-minded Chancellor, No 10 needs to put him at the heart of the Brexit negotiations.”
Ms Soubry added: “I was shocked to learn that he was not informed in advance of Mrs May’s Conservative party conference speech in which she criticised the governor of the Bank of England.
“Hammond has a right to be treated better than that. His exclusion from crucial Downing Street meetings is similarly worrying.”
Ms Morgan also weighed in, telling the paper: “The Chancellor is doing the right thing in making sure that we have the best possible relationship with Europe as we go through Brexit.
“The Government should be concentrating on helping him to achieve that, rather than briefing and spinning against him.”
Appearing before the Treasury Select Committee this week, Mr Hammond called for an end to Cabinet leaks, saying it would be “much more helpful if ministers were able to conduct internal discussions privately and without leaks to newspapers”.
Following Mrs May’s first EU summit, Number 10 has been quick to insist that she received a “warm welcome” in private talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other EU leaders.
It comes after it emerged the Prime Minister was given just five minutes at the end of a working dinner on Thursday to update EU leaders on the Brexit process.
“Juncker was courteous and constructive when they talked one to one,’ a Downing St source told the Mail on Sunday.
“In all our private discussions, other leaders said they were very sorry to see us go but now all they wanted was constructive talks. There was no hostility.”
Ms Morgan told the Mail on Sunday: “All the talk so far has been of a hard or soft Brexit. I fear a dirty Brexit will be more accurate.”
Backbench Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg played down talk of moves against Mr Hammond.
“European Council president Donald Tusk is right: there can be no hard or soft Brexit – we either stay or we go. And the people voted to go, which means leaving the single market,” he told the paper.
He added: “I do not accept that there is any sort of campaign against Mr Hammond.”