Hammond plays down any prospect of the Conservative Party splitting

Philip Hammond has denied that the tensions among Conservatives were so great over Brexit that the party might implode, an outcome about which many Westminster commentators are now speculating.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 9:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:44 pm
Chancellor Philip Hammond (left) and the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in the House of Commons last month. Mr Hammond is seen as one of the most sceptical politicians about Brexit, while Mr Johnson resigned from the cabinet because he felt Brexit was betrayed by the Chequers plan. Photo: PA Wire

The News Letter yesterday asked the chancellor about the apparent enmity between Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees Mogg and moderates in the cabinet such as him, who had backed Remain in 2016.

“So, look, we have disagreements within the party on this specific issue,” Mr Hammond said on his visit to Northern Ireland. “But the areas in which we agree far exceed the areas in which we disagree and we all agree, I think without exception, that a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be a disaster for Britain.”

The chancellor, speaking during his visit to the Bombardier factory in Belfast, continued: “I think that despite our differences on some issues and on some aspects of how we manage the Brexit process — and it is about process and no-one disagrees with the direction of travel, we are leaving the European Union, and seeking to get the best deal we can with the EU – despite those differences we are all very clear that we mustn’t do anything that would create any prospect of a Corbyn government, which would be a disaster for Britain.”

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond meets apprentices during a visit to the Bombardier factory in Belfast on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Asked about the Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney’s comments that Britain could not afford a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Mr Hammond said: “I think there is no doubt that Britain will be better off with a deal than without a deal, but I don’t think we are sliding towards no deal.

“I think we are at a critical point in the negotiations. The white paper proposal has been received on the European side as a constructive move forward. Simon said himself this morning that he thought it was a basis on which the EU could engage with the UK.”