People want a ‘sensible Brexit’, says Philip Hammond – The Guardian
The chancellor insisted he was happy to see the CBI making its voice heard, and warned “it would be madness not to seek to have the closest possible arrangement” with Britain’s largest trading partner and closest neighbour.
“I’m glad that the business community is exercising a voice in this discussion. I think that’s helpful,” Hammond said on Friday, in an interview with Bloomberg and Reuters at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
He said he did not believe it would be “legally or politically possible” to remain in the single market or customs union after Brexit – as that would limit the UK’s ability to control immigration or make trade deals.
But he said the benefits of the two models should be retained during a transitional period.
He said: “My preference is that we negotiate a transitional structure which takes us outside of those memberships but in the transition phase replicates as much as possible of the existing arrangements, so that the shock to business is minimised for the transition period.”
Hammond – the leading voice for a soft form of Brexit within government – made clear that he thought there were great economic risks if the UK fails to achieve a good deal.
He said: “The thing that I remind my colleagues [about] is that if we lose access to our European markets, that will be an instant effect, overnight, and to people who are looking to us to protect jobs, economic growth, living standards, they won’t thank us if we deliver them an instant hit with only a longer term slowly building benefit to compensate. That’s the concern that we have to have in our minds.”
Asked if there was any chance that Brexit would not happen, the chancellor laughed and said: “No. The British people have made up their minds.”
But he made clear that the millions of people who did not want the UK to leave the EU were now determined that the outcome should not be economically damaging.
Philip Hammond arrives with Theresa May and her husband Philip in Germany for the G20. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
“There’s a significant constituency of people who voted to remain in the EU but have accepted the decision, but what they want to see is a Brexit that looks sensible to them.”
He described that as a Brexit focused on protecting jobs, business, prosperity and trade, and one that recovers sovereignty for the UK but also recognises the reality of an interconnected world.
“The EU will remain our largest trading partner and our nearest neighbours, and it would be madness not to seek to have the closest possible arrangement with them going forward,” added Hammond.
The chancellor was asked if Theresa May would still be prime minister in a month’s time. He said: “I’m very confident about that. The prime minister has been very open about the fact that we didn’t get the outcome from the election that we hoped for. But we’ve got a job to do.”
He argued that the public would consider the government formed. “Now we should stop navel-gazing and get on with the job in hand, deliver Brexit, get the very best deal we can for Britain.”
However, he appeared to acknowledge that the Conservatives’ reputation had suffered, adding: “In doing so we will rebuild our reputation with our public.”
He argued that the DUP deal – which he claimed meant bringing together two parties from the same tradition – had “created a stable base for a government which in the first session, at least, of parliament, will have quite a narrow focus”.