Efforts to tie Prime Minister Theresa May to a specific form of Brexit are undermining Britain’s chances of negotiating a successful withdrawal from the European Union, Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned.
His comments are likely to be seen as a lightly-veiled reproach to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who has made a very public push for a “hard Brexit” solution - which would see the UK leave the European single market and customs union.
The Chancellor also moved to allay City concerns that Brexit might prevent them recruiting highly-skilled foreign staff, telling the House of Commons Treasury Committee that addressing the concerns of the financial sector will be “a very high priority” for the Government in negotiations.
While regaining controls over the migration between the UK and EU was an essential part of Brexit, Mr Hammond said: “I cannot conceive of any circumstance in which we would be using those controls to prevent banks, companies moving highly-qualified, highly-skilled people between different parts of their businesses.
“That is essential for the smooth operation of our economy.”
After days of press reports that other ministers privately see Mr Hammond as a drag on progress towards Brexit, the Chancellor told the committee that it was “no secret” there were differences of opinion within the Cabinet about the best way to proceed.
He condemned leaks from meetings of the Cabinet Brexit committee, saying it would be “far more helpful to this debate if we were able to conduct these internal discussions privately without leaks to newspapers”.