The past fortnight has seen numerous speeches from British politician’s concerning Brexit. The Prime Minister, in her first speech to Conservative Party Conference as leader, responded to the defeatism which consumes much of the political establishment.
Theresa May pointed out to the naysayers how Britain didn’t need to “punch above our weight” to make Brexit a success, as its weight is substantial enough already. But the Chancellor is not taking any notice of his boss, as he goes about pursuing his own agenda, and talking about a ‘soft Brexit’.
Philip Hammond seems to have gone out of his way to establish himself as the principal opponent of Brexit within the Government. Beginning with his speech at Conservative Conference, which was in stark contrast to the PM’s own ‘be positive’ speech, one cannot but think it was deliberate.
His use of vocabulary – such as how the UK is facing a period of ‘turbulence” and “uncertainty” – appeared specifically designed to spook international currency markets.
However, Theresa May’s optimism was also shared by the new International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox; the Secretary of State for ‘Brexit’, David Davis and the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who each spoke of the huge potential and opportunities Brexit presents to the UK.
Even staunch Remainers, like the new Home Secretary Amber Rudd, appear to have come to terms with Brexit. But there is one figure who is still regurgitating Project Fear, and this is the man who is supposed to be running Brexit Britain’s economy – Philip Hammond. This is a disgrace!
By the dull tone of Hammond’s conference speech, one can only speculate he was deliberately targeting the computer algorithms which now influence international currency markets. One certainty which could be drawn from the speech was the Chancellor failed to receive the “be positive” memo!
Not content with attempting to bore conference into a coma, he then sought to create further problems for our £ on the currency markets. In an interview for Bloomberg in New York last week Hammond suggested ministers would be prepared to compromise on free movement in order to retain access to the Single Market. Sure enough, this sent out signals of a divided government which appears unsure and split over Brexit.
Foreign Leaders were quick to pounce, with French President François Hollande warning a banquet attended by several prominent Eurocrats about the need for Britain to ‘suffer’ the consequences of leaving the EU. This, combined with the Chancellor’s pessimism and warnings, were enough to send the value of the pound plummeting.
A weaker pound in itself is not a bad thing. Both the IMF and the OECD seem to have agreed the pound was significantly overvalued, and its fall, following the vote for Brexit, has been a huge boost to UK exporters. But it does not require the UK Chancellor to dumb down his own economy to do so. It is the job of the Chancellor to sooth and reassure markets.
Hammond appears set on destabilising them. The leaking of an old Treasury report, which had been part of Project Fear, to the Remain-backing Times newspaper earlier this week shows the Chancellor and the Treasury are following in the footsteps of his predecessor George Osborne and his team, willing to play dirty to get their own way.
It is clear the Chancellor views himself to be un-sackable. It seems he feels if he walks away from his job, warning how he simply couldn’t run the economy following Brexit, it would be damaging for the Government.
Over the last couple of days there have been several reports indicating Hammond is planning to resign unless he gets his way on Brexit and the Single Market, although these claims have since been denied by the Treasury. What would be more damaging in the long run is a Chancellor who does not believe in what he is doing.
Other Remoaners have accepted the result of the referendum – and the votes of 17.4 million of the Great British Public – and have resolved to make Brexit work for a truly global United Kingdom. Now it’s time for the Chancellor to do likewise and Get Britain Out of the EU.
Jayne Adye is the Director of cross-party, grassroots Eurosceptic group Get Britain Out.