The Treasury is the real threat to Brexit
Chancellor Philip Hammond is playing a murky game, underming the chances of a real and true Brexit from Number 11 Downing Street. The false prophets of Project Fear need to be rebuffed. Kick Hammond out, and get Brexit accomplished without delay
In the last few months there seems to have been a story every day about the threat to Brexit from the backbenches of both the Conservative and Labour Parties. However, while it’s a serious threat which cannot be ignored, it is not the biggest one.
A bigger threat comes from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and the Treasury as a whole.
This threat to Brexit is nothing new, nor is it exclusive to the Hammond era. In the lead up to the EU Referendum, time and time again, we saw former Chancellor, George Osborne produce the firepower for ‘Project Fear’.
As you may recall, we had threats of a proposed ‘Punishment Budget’ and endless Treasury "predictions" of job losses and economic downturn which would immediately follow a vote to Leave. All of which, of course, proved to be false.
Now, even after the departure of Osborne from the Treasury, the game continues. It has simply become more invidious and secretive.
Since Philip Hammond has taken over in the Treasury, he has presented two fronts:
It would seem the second front is far more in line with ‘Spreadsheet Phil’s’ real opinions, but why is Hammond and the Treasury a bigger threat to Brexit than Soubry, Grieve and their cohorts?
Undermining the Government
Just last month we saw two more examples of Philip Hammond undermining the Government (as well as Cabinet Collective Responsibility). In a phone call to over 300 business leaders, Hammond, as well as the current Brexit Minister, Stephen Barclay and the Business Secretary, Greg Clark talked about Government policy moving forward -- including ruling out No Deal – which is not Mrs May’s stated current policy.
He stirred it up again in Switzerland at the end of January when he attended the Davos World Economic Forum, surrounded by arch Remainers like Tony Blair and George Osborne.
In the past, at this same Forum, Hammond said “No Deal would be a betrayal of the Referendum”! He clearly has a bad memory, or doesn’t understand the motivations or reasons why the majority in the country voted for Brexit, and why No Deal would be best for Great Britain. His recent statements are contrary to everything Mrs May has been saying publicly in her negotiations with MPs and with the EU.
When backbenchers contradict the PM, little harm is done. However, when the person who is effectively the second most powerful member of the government briefs against you, the Prime Minister’s negotiating position is clearly undermined.
Or is there some kind of collusion we don’t know about?
This is all of huge importance, especially when EU negotiators are prepared to concede as little as possible. They are willing to seize on even the smallest dispute as an opportunity to give the UK as bad a deal as they can, just to punish us for having the audacity to attempt to leave the EU.
With Hammond undermining the Government, and the lack of a clear positive message, his behaviour not only threatens the potential for global Britain’s future after Brexit, but could also contribute towards some businesses not planning accordingly.
Businesses with the most vested interests in the EU are shouting the loudest, but the majority of businesses are already preparing for a World Trade Organisation rules Brexit. However, doubt increases resentment for those not fully informed, and makes us look stupid in the eyes of the world.
We should also remember, the majority of businesses in the UK only trade within 10 miles of their home base, and never ever trade with the EU, yet they are currently forced to adhere to all the EU’s rules and directives. They will also be celebrating freedom after Brexit.
Restriction of Funding for No Deal
While it would have been best to have a great Brexit Deal on the table with the EU by now, with the promise of a good trade deal in the near future, as this is not currently a reality, Get Britain Out is committed to pursue a WTO No Deal Brexit.
We were happy to see Hammond announce funding would be made available to departments to prepare for a No Deal exit on the 29th March, but the realities have not matched up. Hammond has withheld much of the promised cash – no doubt as he wants to stop Brexit.
There have repeatedly been warnings by Ministers about not receiving allocated money when they need it. This has meant planning for a WTO Brexit has become more difficult. This may, of course, be part of a ploy by Government to attempt to stop Brexit or delay No Deal preparations, making the Prime Minister’s Deal seem like the only possible option.
Mrs May’s Deal would effectively ruin any of the advantages of Brexit, with Great Britain shackled to a declining EU, intent on marching towards a Federal Superstate, and effectively delivering a Brexit in name only -- something which may just as well be called Remain.
Extension of Project Fear
Since Philip Hammond took office as Chancellor in 2016, we have seen constant murmurings about the consequences of Brexit on the economy. It is plain to see that Hammond, a Remainer before the EU Referendum, is still a Remainer today. He has never seen the opportunity of Brexit, and does not have the vision to put into place the economic policies which would allow Britain to thrive.
Instead of listening to the will of the Great British Public who keep him in power, Mr Hammond listens to the self-interested manipulative voices of lobbyists, big business and dilapidated, retired former politicians such as Tony Blair, all of whom were in attendance in Davos last month.
Time and again Hammond lacks vision, and talks about how Brexit is forcing him to be less optimistic. He threatens to raise taxes after Brexit, instead of seeing the possible advantages of tax reductions. This constant belittling of the opportunities posed by a real and true Brexit is a significant threat to our global future.
What we have seen in the last 2 years has been of great concern to Brexit supporters. The public face of Remain, with vast sums of money at their disposal, has continued to try and stop Brexit by any means possible, despite time and again being shown they are in the minority. Some People’s Vote campaigners admitted as much late last month.
Unfortunately, we have a largely Remain Parliament. MPs voted to trigger Article 50, and delivering the result of the EU Referendum was in both Labour and Conservative Party manifestos. However, there are still threats to Brexit, not only from the Government’s front bench, but ongoing threats from unelected civil servants, like Remainiac-in-chief Ollie Robbins.
Threats of resignations from Ministers abound, including from Hammond and Amber Rudd -- supposedly around 40 in total. The constant undermining of our capabilities, Hammond’s brakes on No Deal funding, and the constant briefings of doom and gloom are part of this murky strategy.
They all come one way or another from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond -- the powerhouse of Treasury bureaucracy.
Yet, time and again the Treasury's predictions of doom have proven to be incorrect. Their credibility lies in tatters.
In the past 2 weeks, Mr Hammond has decided to lay low following all the scepticism over his recent actions. There has been no comment from Number 11 regarding the so-called Malthouse compromise or the votes in Parliament last week. Perhaps Mr Hammond is simply laying in wait for the opportune moment to strike.
We cannot and must not allow the United Kingdom to be governed from Number 11 Downing Street, and we must make sure we Get Britain Out of the EU on the 29th of March.
It is clearly time for the Chancellor’s position to become vacant, whether because Theresa May fires him, or because he follows through with his threat to resign.
Philip Hammond cannot be allowed to scupper the best Brexit for Britain.
Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out
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