Advertisement

Chancellor Philip Hammond says no-deal Brexit would be 'both political betrayal and economic self-harm'

The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that if Britain were to depart the European Union in March without an agreement it would be an act of both political betrayal and economic self-harm.

And yet he refuses to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

Which means, of course, that unless the deadlock in Westminster can be resolved in the next nine weeks, Philip Hammond will find himself part of a government which delivers a Brexit that he believes will significantly hurt Britain.

Chancellor Philip Hammond told ITV News a no-deal Brexit would cause 'chaos'. Credit: ITV News

This morning Hammond insisted he would help deliver a deal by "forging a compromise" with the European Union and suggested he wouldn’t resign as chancellor even if he fails and Brexit gets disorderly.

It’s looks like brinkmanship and feels alarmingly high stakes.

"I know you may find the complexities of the political process baffling and frustrating", he told business leaders yesterday.

But there’s Hammond sees method in all the madness. Everyone just needs to keep the faith.

The government wants for concessions from the EU on the issue of Irish backstop but, at the moment, the EU is offering only “clarity” and “explanations”. Such reassurances won’t get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons on Tuesday.

Ireland’s Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe. Credit: PA

Ireland has repeatedly refused to consider either scrapping the backstop or introducing a time-limit to it. Earlier today, Ireland’s Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, did so again.

"We’ve made it very clear we’re not to accept any change in the nature of the backstop, in how its operated and the principles of it," he told ITV News.

He insisted that it was for the British government to come up with a "new or a better idea".

On the face of it, there’s not much room for manoeuvre but Philip Hammond appears to be confident that there will be a concession, that at the last-minute the impossible will become possible.

"Look at the EU’s history of negotiation, look at the Greek crisis" he told business leaders yesterday.

There is only nine weeks left to find the compromise he seeks but, as he put it, "two days even two hours is a long time" in EU politics.

The chancellor seems to believe that the EU will compromise, even if it is at one minute to midnight on March 28.

If he's right, then High Noon, unbelievably, is still some way off.