Boris Johnson and Michael Gove accused of ‘sordid attempt’ to oust Philip Hammond

Posted On: 
13th November 2017

Allies of the Prime Minister have accused Boris Johnson and Michael Gove of a “sordid attempt” to remove Philip Hammond, after a letter appearing to criticise the Chancellor was leaked. 

Michael Gove and Boris Johnson confronted the Prime Minister over her Brexit position in a letter leaked to the Mail on Sunday

In the memo to Theresa May, which was revealed in the Mail on Sunday, the pair wrote that Britain was being held "over a barrel" by  refusing to make preparations for leaving the UK without a deal, in an apparent swipe at Mr Hammond.

The letter states: "We are profoundly worried that in some parts of Government the current preparations are not proceeding with anything like sufficient energy.

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"We have heard it argued by some that we cannot start preparations on the basis of ‘No Deal’ because that would undermine our obligation of ‘sincere co-operation’ with the EU. If taken seriously, that would leave us over a barrel in 2021."

But Mrs May’s allies hit back, telling the Telegraph: "It's a sordid little double play, they are trying to take advantage of the Prime Minister's weakness to get rid of Hammond."

However, others defended the move, saying: "They see themselves as guardians of Brexit, there is more riding for them on its success than anyone else in Cabinet.

"He [Mr Hammond] is always the problem, he is one the main reasons why there is not enough preparation for no deal. He is so stubborn."

The release of the sensational letter yesterday, comes as a fresh blow to the beleaguered Prime Minister, with one government source branding Mrs May a “Downing Street hostage” and calling the move a "soft coup".

The former Leave campaigners called on Mrs May to “underline her resolve” to achieve a total break with the EU, and urged her to "articulate the following" – setting out their own hard Brexit manifesto.

The Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary added that the Prime Minister should display more "confidence" during the negotiations.

The implicit criticism of Mr Hammond’s Brexit position will pile more pressure on the Chancellor after he last month ruled out releasing cash to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but was later slapped down by the Prime Minister.

In an article for The Times the Chancellor said: "The Government and the Treasury are prepared. We are planning for every outcome and we will find any necessary funding and we will only spend it when it’s responsible to do so."

But Mrs May later told MPs that "where money needs to be spent, it will be spent" adding that £250m had been made available for Whitehall departments.