Chancellor speaks up for business ahead of Brexit summit
Philip Hammond’s intervention comes after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is reported to have said ‘F*** business’ when asked about industry concerns.
Philip Hammond has called for the concerns of business to be taken seriously ahead of Friday’s key Chequers Brexit summit.
The comments came at Treasury questions in the Commons after warnings from firms including Airbus and BMW about Brexit were dismissed by Cabinet ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is also reported to have said “F*** business” when asked about industry concerns.
The Chancellor told MPs the Government needed to agree on a Brexit which “delivers the needs of business”.
Ministers are under increasing pressure to spell out what type of relationship with the EU the UK should pursue.
Prime Minister Theresa May has promised more details in a White Paper that will be published after Friday’s cabinet get-together at her official country residence.
We have to listen to what business is telling us and make sure that we deliver a Brexit which delivers the needs of business Philip Hammond
Mr Hammond, responding to a question from Tory former minister Bob Neill in the Commons, said: “I think the views of business, which is the great generator of employment and wealth and prosperity in our country, should always be taken very carefully into account.
“We have to listen to what business is telling us and make sure that we deliver a Brexit which delivers the needs of business.”
Earlier in the session a smile flashed across the Chancellor’s face when Labour former minister Chris Leslie asked Treasury ministers if they knew what the “mythical third customs plan” was.
The plan, to be presented to ministers on Friday, is said to offer “the best of both worlds” — an independent trade policy and friction-free trade.
Mr Leslie said: “It’s getting completely ridiculous now. When the Treasury – either the Chancellor of the Chief Secretary – are finally allowed to have a look at this mythical third customs plan from Number 10, will they at least have the integrity and the honesty to say that if it doesn’t deliver the exact same benefits for Scotland or for that matter England, Wales and Northern Ireland they’ll come to this House and actually say so?”
Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss responded: “We want to secure as frictionless trade as possible with the EU but also get those opportunities with the rest of the world.”
Mr Hammond later said he would explain the Treasury’s assessment of the “implications” of different Brexit outcomes to the Cabinet at Friday’s meeting.
It came after shadow chancellor John McDonnell asked Mr Hammond to “show a bit of grit” and “make it clear that no responsible chancellor could remain in a Cabinet so recklessly putting our economy at risk through no deal”.
Mr Hammond replied: “I can assure (Mr McDonnell) that I will be setting out for my colleagues in the privacy of our Cabinet meeting on Friday the Treasury’s – indeed the cross Whitehall economics group’s assessment of the implications of different potential routes forward.”
The Chancellor rounded off Treasury questions by telling MPs he would be pushing for a Brexit that “protects British jobs” at the Chequers meeting.
Mr Hammond said: “On Friday, as I have done consistently for the last two years, I will argue for a future relationship with the European Union that protects our important supply chains, protects British jobs and protects British business going forward.”