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UK will 'fight back' over Brexit trade deals, warns Hammond

Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned the EU that Britain will not "slink off like a wounded animal" but will "fight back" if it does not get the Brexit deal it wants.

In some of the toughest talking yet ahead of the UK triggering the Article 50 negotiations on terms of withdrawal, the Chancellor said Britain would "do whatever we need to do" to be competitive in the event of leaving the EU without a trade agreement.

Mr Hammond told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Britain's "fighting spirit" would come to the fore in any future clash with the EU.

"If there is anybody in the European Union who thinks that if we don't do a deal with the European Union, if we don't continue to work closely together, Britain will simply slink off as a wounded animal, that is not going to happen.

"British people have a great fighting spirit and we will fight back. We will forge new trade deals around the world. We will build our business globally.

"We will go on from strength to strength and we will do whatever we need to do to make the British economy competitive and to make sure that this country has a great and successful future."

Asked if this meant the UK would slash business taxes to attract investment away from the EU, the Chancellor said: "People can read what they like into it. I'm not going to speculate now on how the UK would respond to what I don't expect to be the outcome.

"But we are going into a negotiation. We expect to be able to achieve a comprehensive free trade deal with our European Union partners, but they should know that the alternative isn't Britain just slinking away into a corner."

The Chancellor also indicated the UK would pay any Brexit bills it owed to the EU.

He said: "Obviously, this is a piece of negotiating strategy that we are seeing in Brussels. We are a nation that honours its obligations and if we do have any bills that fall to be paid we will obviously deal with them in the proper way.

"We are a nation which abides by its international obligations. We always have done, we always will do, and everybody can be confident about that."

The comments came after a Lords report stated that Britain could legally walk away from the EU without paying a penny if there is no trade deal.

While it has been reported that the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is seeking a 60 billion euro (£52 billion) "exit bill" from Britain, the Lords EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee said all estimates of the cost of withdrawal were "hugely speculative".

Mr Hammond rejected calls from a cross-party committee of MPs for the Government to give an immediate guarantee to the millions of EU nationals living in the UK of their future rights.

The Commons Exiting the EU Committee said the Government should act unilaterally and not wait for a reciprocal assurance over the position of British citizens in the EU.

The committee - whose members include Michael Gove who was co-chairman of the official Vote Leave campaign - said it was "unconscionable" they should have to wait up to two years when the negotiations conclude before their position is clarified.

The Chancellor told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "We have to protect the couple of million British nationals who are living in the European Union. We have to get a fair deal for them as well.

"This isn't about turfing people out, this is about the rights people have."

Commons Leader David Lidington cautioned the Lords against amending the Brexit Bill to include a clause for a "meaningful vote" in Parliament at the end of the negotiating process.

He told BBC Sunday Politics: "Parliament will get the chance to vote on the deal.

"Any idea that the PM's freedom to negotiation is limited, any idea that if the EU 27 were to play hardball, that somehow that means that Parliament would take - try to reverse the referendum verdicts, and to set aside the views of the British people, that would almost guarantee that it would be much more difficult to get the sort of ambitious, mutually beneficial deal for us and for the EU 27 that we want."

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