In 2013, Philip Hammond, who was then Secretary of Defence, told Andrew Marr that if Cameron failed to secure any substantial changes during his negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s EU membership, then he would campaign to leave. By February 2016, the then Prime Minister attempted to portray his ‘deal’ as a radical renegotiation of the UK’s EU status. The majority of Brits saw through Cameron’s spin and voted to quit the EU four months later. Hammond, however, betrayed his own statement to Marr and became a passionate Remain advocate. But his interview is available for anyone to view, and passionate Brexiteers have shared it repeatedly on social media since. They have not forgotten his words. If there is anyone who has delayed Britain’s EU exit since June 23rd 2016, it is the Chancellor.
Economist Liam Halligan told The Daily Express that Hammond will go down in history for ‘making a strategic error’ on Brexit. He argues this is due to his failure to prepare for no deal. The Chancellor said leaving the EU without a deal would hit the nation hard and cost far more than is set aside to cope with such an outcome. The Government’s own analysis reported that a disruptive deal would cost £90 billion. Yet it was the Treasury who argued there would be an immediate economic shock once Britain voted to leave in June 2016, and those claims have not come into fruition.
If Hammond emerges as the ringleader of a coup designed to destroy the largest democratic mandate in British history, it would mean the destruction of the Conservative Party. Not only is the Chancellor making a major strategic error, but a political one too, by delaying Brexit altogether.
He is placing the new Prime Minister in huge jeopardy from the minute they are elected by the Tory grassroots. The Government could scrape together a majority for no deal if all Conservatives united behind it with the DUP. But Hammond has different interests. He has already intervened in his party’s leadership campaign with his threat to block no deal with 29 other MPs, and by warning about the costs of a ‘disruptive exit.’ With Labour and other prominent Tory Remainers like Dominic Grieve flirting with a vote of no confidence, they are all collaborating to stop Brexit altogether.
It is clear that politicians cannot comprehend the message voters sent to them at this year’s local and European elections. The majority of the electorate still want to leave the EU. The Brexit Party won the overwhelming majority of MEPs in June due to their no deal platform. If these results were translated into a general election, they would divide the Tories further and ultimately lead to a Corbyn-led government winning power. The economic consequences of a Labour victory would be far worse than a no deal Brexit, and the majority of business leaders are more worried about the former outcome than the latter.
The Financial Times interviewed 100 business leaders and discovered 38 percent of them fear a Labour victory and 25 percent worry about the Labour Leader’s tax hikes. The Guardian reported on a document produced by Morgan Stanley which revealed that they believe Corbyn is a larger threat to business than Brexit is. If these statistics do not worry Tory MPs, what will?
They also fail to consider the advantages that a no deal Brexit would bring to this country. The UK can immediately pursue new trade deals. Without having to pay EU tariffs, many businesses will want to access British markets and products will be cheaper for consumers. VAT and corporate tax rates could be set at any level the Government desires. The EU have repeatedly said they will not renegotiate May’s hated deal, even with a new Prime Minister. So what are Hammond and co doing?
Halligan said the Chancellor is a smart man. He is. He knows he is preventing Britain from leaving the EU. If Hammond continues this way, there will be no Conservative Party left. History will be unkind to him as he will be remembered for failing to prepare for all Brexit outcomes. He will also be remembered as the man who tried, and may soon succeed, in stopping the UK’s EU exit.