Philip Hammond tells rebel Tories to 'stick with the prime minister' amid Brexit rift

Philip Hammond has told rebel Conservative MPs to "stick with the prime minister" amid concerns with how the government is negotiating Brexit.

The chancellor was embroiled in a row on Thursday after he said he hoped the UK and EU's trade relations would move only "very modestly" apart after March 2019.

He was later rebuked for his comments by Downing Street, who emphasised the government's stance on leaving the customs union and single market.

On Thursday, Mr Hammond said he "wouldn't seek to disagree" with Number 10's statement.

The chancellor told ITV News, he had confidence Theresa May would deliver a deal that would be best for Britain and urged his colleagues to "stick with" her.

He said he sought to deliver a "pragmatic" Brexit that would maximise the British economy.

"What I was telling my audience of British companies was that we will seek the closest possible access to the European Union markets so that we can go on trading our goods," he said.

He said no one had "ever had a problem" with having a close trading relationship with the EU.

"We want access to the markets. We want allow European markets access to our markets and we want to have a border which allows goods to flow backwards and forwards freely so that we can protect our jobs and grow more jobs."

Hammond said he was hoping the UK and EU would keep close trading ties after Brexit. Credit: PA

Asked about the alleged 48 Tory MPs who are willing to trigger a leadership contest, Mr Hammond said: "I would say to my colleagues, stick to the prime minister.

"She's navigating a very tricky, difficult negotiation process. We have to get the implementation period agreed then we have to negotiate the best possible deal for Britain for the future relationship with the European Union.

"I have confidence in the prime minister to deliver that and I would urge them to get behind her."

Later today David Davis will seek to reassure Tory Eurosceptics that Britain will be able to sign global trade deals during the transition period Brexit.

In his speech in Middlesborough Davis will say: "As an independent country, no longer a member of the European Union - the United Kingdom will once again have its own trading policy.

"For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be able to step out and sign new trade deals with old friends, and new allies, around the globe."

Jacob Rees-Mogg responded by urging ministers not to be Credit: PA

While the UK will replicate the effects of the EU customs union during the "implementation period" this "should not preclude us from formally negotiating - or indeed signing - trade agreements," he will say.

Any such deals would enter into force at the end of the implementation period.

Davis told MPs on Wednesday he expected Brussels to resist the UK holding trade talks with other countries during the period because "there are people within the union who want to restrict any advantage for us."

On Thursday, Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg urged ministers not to be "timid and cowering" in their approach to EU withdrawal.