Two ministers have reportedly accused Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip “Remainer Phil” Hammond of keeping a tight grip on Treasury funds meant for No Deal Brexit preparations.
Downing Street announced on Tuesday that while delivering Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement remains their “top priority,” they would ramp up preparations for a No Deal Brexit and “will implement them in full”.
At a Cabinet meeting, ministers approved a £2 billion fund for various Government departments to manage No Deal arrangements, but Mr Hammond reportedly criticised colleagues for only spending £500m of the £1.5bn already allocated to ministries for emergency Brexit planning.
The Sun reports ministers criticised the Chancellor, who campaigned for a Remain vote in the June 2016 referendum, that the Treasury was “taking months” to sign off on distributing those funds.
A heated debate also is said to have broke out between ministers over alternative Brexit plans, with one accusing Hammond of continuing to frustrate No Deal preparations by telling his department to slow their work rate and thus the disbursement of funds.
'…As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly…' https://t.co/UfHDR7Srne
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A Cabinet minister told The Sun: “The one Government department doing the most to stop No Deal is the Treasury, so it is incredible for them to now criticise anyone else.
“Hammond has never wanted us to prepare for No Deal because he thinks it’s more likely to never happen if we don’t,” they explained.
“All the delays in getting money come directly from him.”
Another minister told The Sun: “Even when the budgets are allocated, it still needs to be released through business cases approved by the Treasury, and that’s when the Treasury tries to restrict it.
“We are doing full business cases and they still don’t yet have them cleared. It is quite extraordinary.”
REPORT: 11 Cabinet Ministers Back ‘Managed No Deal' Brexit https://t.co/9LzvfHlmwV
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A Treasury source told the newspaper that it is not responsible for the slow spending of No Deal funds.
Hammond has been long considered the anti-Brexit voice of the Cabinet, having backed a ‘Soft Brexit’ which would keep the UK in the EU’s Customs Union, Single Market, and associated Free Movement.
In August 2017, he wrote to a fellow Remainer Tory MP claiming a No Deal Brexit would result in “large fiscal consequences”, undermining then-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s statement that Britain was well-prepared for a clean break from the bloc. At the time, Downing Street was said to be furious with the unsanctioned publishing of the letter.
In October of this year dozens of MPs, as well as academics, businessmen, and lawyers signed a letter criticising the Chancellor for his anti-Brexit forecasts, specifically Hammond’s leaked dire No Deal Brexit economic forecasts which were said to be based on flawed or manipulated modelling.