“The obligation is on the Brexit leaders to now tell the British public some hard truths.”
CREDIT: RII SCHROER/RII SCHROER
Anew cabinet split over the handling of Brexit has emerged as ministers privately attacked each other over how to approach EU negotiations.
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has been blamed for talking down Britain’s hopes of getting a good deal and attacked for his “relentless pessimism”.
One cabinet colleague went as far saying that Mr Hammond, who voted to stay in the EU, should “watch his back” and could lose his job.
However friends of Mr Hammond are furious with the “nonsense and garbage” that Eurosceptics have said about the strength of Britain’s hand in talks.
“The obligation is on the Brexit leaders to now tell the British public some hard truths,” a Treasury figure said.
The jibes, uttered behind closed doors to the Telegraph during Tory conference week, show how deep the EU rift at the top of the party remains despite a show of unity.
However there was good news last night as a former Liberal Democrat peer joined the Tories after becoming exasperated with her party’s refusal to accept the Brexit vote.
Baroness Manzoor, who led attacks over tax credit cuts, said: “Leaving the Lib Dems, where I’ve been a member for three years in the House of Lords, was tough, but it was the right thing to do.
“I could not support the leadership of a party that calls itself democratic and then refuses to acknowledge the will of the people in a referendum.”
She will soon have visited eight countries in her first three months in post – more than David Cameron and Gordon Brown combined at the beginning of their premierships.
Yet there are growing concerns that the cabinet split over the Brexit deal cannot be bridged and there will be resignations before an EU agreement is eventually reached.
Mr Hammond, who helped lead the Remain campaign as foreign secretary before moving to the Treasury, is seen as one of the most pro-EU voices around the cabinet table.
Recent comments suggest he sees keeping access of the single market as just as important as ending the free movement of people.
Yet the so-called Three Brexiteers – Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – and other cabinet ministers who voted to leave the EU have put greater emphasis on immigration controls.
This week it was claimed that differences between Mr Hammond and Mr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, over whether to stay in the customs unions were insurmountable.
Other Eurosceptics have hit out at Mr Hammond’s approach. One cabinet colleague told this newspaper he may face the sack if he continues “talking down” Britain’s prospects after it leaves the EU.
His “relentless pessimism” has infuriated his colleagues who believe that Britain needs to take a positive approach to Brexit if it is to succeed, the minister said.
They added: “He still appears to be in a state of grief [over the referendum result], he should watch his back.”
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Another senior Tory MP hit out at Mr Hammond and Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor whose economic warnings over the impact of Brexit infuriated Eurosceptics.
“Philip Hammond and Mark Carney were part of Project Fear but are still in key positions. It’s clear that there will be element of the Conservative Party looking to see a more positive attitude towards Brexit,” the MP said.
“The Tory Party is a broad church and it’s quite reasonable to have more reservations about Brexit but a clear direction is set – we are leaving the single market and making a success of it.
“There are people like George Osborne, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, who are feeling very bruised by the vote. Their only way back into politics is if Brexit is a disaster. Everything they say needs to be viewed through that prism.”
However the anger cuts both ways, with a senior Treasury figure expressing frustration with the way leading Eurosceptics portrayed the strength of Britain’s negotiating hand before the referendum.
The source said claims that the EU has more to lose than the UK is “garbage” and demanded leading Brexit supporters tell the public the “truth” about the negotiation position.
“The EU club sees a member heading for the door. Their priority is to kill them, or at the very least take off a leg, so others don’t follow,” the source warned.
They added that Michael Gove and other leading Eurosceptics should warn votes about how hard talks will be, saying: “The obligation is on the Brexit leaders to now tell the British public some hard truths.”
Brussels slams the door on UK companies
Britain’s biggest companies are being frozen out of crucial discussions in Brussels, sparking fears their international operations could face swift “policy punishment” over the decision by voters to leave the EU.
Senior executives across the spectrum of industry sectors have told the Sunday Telegraph that they are now struggling to speak to EU officials, despite having operations and partnerships worth billions of euros on the continent. It came as the urgent need for more trade and diplomacy expertise in London is sparking broader fears about the clout British companies are able to draw on further afield.
The Brussels representatives of some of the largest FTSE 100 companies are finding that calls go unreturned, discussion papers are not shared and invitations to key meetings are no longer extended. One source said: “We’re finding now that nobody will take our calls. Britain is still a member state but we can’t get a hearing.”
Another experienced Brussels operator at one of Britain’s biggest global players said UK officials inside the European Commission were also being excluded, making it doubly difficult to hold any sway.
He said: “The single most disturbing thing is what’s happening within the arms of the British government based here. Those individuals who were amenable to business are either being side-lined or nudged out of key roles.
“French officials and diplomats are the ones most eager to use the situation to their advantage.”
The developments are early signs of the problems British business may face as Theresa May prepares to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.
The EU is working on crucial legislation on areas including banking, energy, telecoms, media and consumer products. According to the Great Repeal Bill, announced by Mrs May for the autumn Parliament, this legislation will be incorporated into UK law until it can be repealed at a later date, meaning legislation is being developed now with limited British influence that could impact UK businesses.
The turmoil in Britain’s diplomatic corps is also affecting corporate giants outside the EU. Those that have relied on assistance from the Foreign Office to do business and win regulatory approval in far-flung territories are finding diplomats tied up in Brexit work.
A spokesman for the European Commission denied there had been any change in attitude towards British business. He said: “The European Commission continues to meet with many British companies and other stakeholders and will not stop doing so.”
However, the spokesman warned that officials would not discuss the EU’s position on the detail of Britain’s exit from the EU with businesses. He said: “Future negotiations… with the UK over its departure from the EU, however, will of course be conducted with the UK Government, though clearly stakeholders from all over the EU will continue to make their views known.”
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