No.10 Aide: Remainer Former Chancellor Blocked No-Deal Brexit Plans

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond speaks during the The International FinTech Conference 2018, in central London on March 22, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior aide has reportedly accused the Remain-backing former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, of blocking no-deal Brexit plans.

In leaked comments reported by The Times, Dominic Cummings allegedly told a meeting of government aides that Mr Hammond and former business secretary Greg Clark had frustrated plans for a clean break during the premiership of Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

“It’s clear as we look at the process for no-deal planning that in all sorts of ways the previous government did not take this seriously,” Mr Cummings reportedly said.

“Lots of ministers, clearly like Greg Clark and Hammond, hadn’t. Precisely because they did not want to — they did not want the country to be ready for no-deal for political purposes. Therefore [they] neglected all sorts of things,” he added.

People close to Mr Hammond claimed that the assertions were “untrue”; however, the Remain-backing politician has long been accused of pushing for a soft Brexit and stalling preparations for a World Trade Organization (WTO) exit from the EU.

In audio recordings leaked in January, Chancellor Hammond was heard telling corporate bosses that ministers would halt a no-deal exit because Article 50 — the legal mechanism for leaving the EU — could be delayed from March 29th, the original exit date which was later twice delayed by former Prime Minister May to October 31st.

“The option of No Deal” can be taken “off the table”, Mr Hammond had said in comments Brexiteer Tory MPs later described as  “treacherous” and “totally incompetent”. Mrs May called off no-deal planning with “immediate effect” in April — after the Brexit deadline had already been extended twice.

Mr Hammond doubled down on his opposition to a clean Brexit in the days leading up to Mr Johnson becoming prime minister, reportedly orchestrating a party rebellion where Tory MPs would defy the whip and vote for an amendment that attempted to stop Mr Johnson fully proroguing — suspending — parliament.

Mr Johnson was said to be considering the move to stop the Remainer-dominated parliament from blocking a no-deal Brexit if the EU refused to renegotiate the exit treaty and remove the Irish backstop. The prime minister has pledged that he will take the UK out of the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal.

A number of Conservative rebels had helped ensure a 41-vote majority to back an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill by either voting against the Conservative government or abstaining.

Speaking to European media in mid-July, Mr Hammond said he would “take steps to avoid an exit without agreement apart from an explicit parliamentary approval”, and, doubling down, would do “everything in my power to make sure that Parliament blocks a Brexit without agreement” — even taking down his own government.

Not alone in his aspiration to bring down the government in order to stop a proper Brexit, Remain-backing MP Dominic Grieve said earlier this week that: “There are a number of things which the House of Commons can do, including bringing down the government and setting up a new government in its place.”

Members of Parliament are on summer recess and Remainer Members of Parliament could trigger a vote of no confidence in September after the summer recess. The Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Johnson would defy the plot to remove him and thwart Brexit by ignoring the result of a no-confidence vote, and call a “people versus politicians” snap election.

Mr Cummings reportedly told senior government figures that Parliament was “too late” to stop a no deal, allegedly saying: “They don’t realise that if there is a no-confidence vote in September or October, we’ll call an election for after the 31st and leave anyway.”

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