Philip Hammond sparks furious Tory backlash with call for 'very modest' Brexit

Posted On: 
25th January 2018

Philip Hammond today sparked a fierce Conservative backlash as he called for the softest possible Brexit.

Philip Hammond has again angered Tory supporters of Brexit
Credit: 
PA Images

The Chancellor told business and political leaders in Davos the UK wanted only “very modest” changes to the UK relationship with the EU.

It provoked a furious response from influential Tory Brexit supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg, who demanded the Government “fundamentally changes” its tone on quitting the bloc.

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Mr Hammond has become an enemy of the anti-EU cohort on the Tory backbenches with his apparent attempts to water down Brexit where possible.

Today he told the World Economic Forum in Davos that business pressure group the CBI was right to call for the “closest possible relationship between the EU and UK post-Brexit”.

In a speech, he declared: “We are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade and selectively moving them, hopefully very modestly apart.”

He said using the EU trade deal with Canada as a base would be throwing away “all the benefits we have of the complete alignment of our regulatory systems” as a starting point.

On migration he added: “We want to maintain the closest possible relationship in people to people exchanges."

'TIMID AND COWERING'

But extracts of a speech Mr Rees-Mogg is preparing to deliver tonight hit back at the suggestion the UK could maintain close ties with the bloc once it leaves in March 2019.

The chair of the 60-strong European Research Group of anti-EU Tory backbenchers will say: "The government's tone on Brexit needs to fundamentally change.”

He will argue: “If [Brexit's opportunities are] taken off the table then Brexit becomes only a damage limitation exercise.

“The British people did not vote for that. They didn't vote for management of decline."

And he will add: "If we are timid and cowering and terrified of the future, then our children will judge us in the balance and find us wanting.”

Mr Rees-Mogg will say the Government sounds as though it aims to stay in a similar system to the single market and customs union and argued such a scenario would not be acceptable.

“The EU-funded CBI, that lover of vested interests, wants it to favour inefficient encumbrance against poor consumers," he will say

“Whether it is ‘a’ or ‘the’ customs union it is a protectionist racket that damages the interests of the wider economy."

Meanwhile, Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News anti-EU Tories could stage their first Brexit legislation rebellion on a Treasury bill they fear could become an easy route for the UK to stay in the customs union.

He said the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill could be "easily amended" to ensure there is no "back door" to continued membership of the trading zone. 

It comes after he tore into Brexit Secretary David Davis yesterday, arguing Government proposals for the two-year transition after Brexit would render the UK a “vassal state”.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "We want a deep and special partnership with the EU and will be looking for ambitious trade deals outside the EU."

'ACT OF SELF-HARM'

Elsewhere, Mr Hammond has said MPs will "probably" not get to see all the details of the final Brexit deal before they vote on it. 

He also fired a warning to EU leaders that they risk a "tremendous act of self-harm" if the City of London is cut off from European markets after Brexit.