May’s cabinet divided on how seriously to take a Brexit “no deal” scenario

HANNAH MCKAY

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond walks through Downing Street in London, Britain, 22 December 2016.

May’s cabinet divided on how seriously to take a Brexit “no deal” scenario


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The British government is debating whether preparing for a hard Brexit is a necessary negotiation strategy or a self-fulfilling prophecy.

According to the BBC this policy dilemma is dividing the British cabinet among the all-too-familiar lines of Remainers and Leavers, as the decision to prepare for a hard Brexit conveys the message of political resolve to walk away from negotiations.

Seating on the fence, Prime Minister Theresa May offered reassurances on Wednesday that beyond the £250 million of additional funds set aside for preparations for a hard Brexit, “where money needs to be spent it will be spent.”

However, Leave campaign heavyweights are demanding rigorous preparations in the tune of billions for a “no deal” scenario, accusing the Chancellor Philip Hammond of incompetence. Demands are made for funds to be “invested” in border control, duties, and excise infrastructure.

Addressing the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons on Wednesday, Hammond made clear that he did not intend to divert tax payer’s money from health, education, or the reduction of the public debt until it becomes unavoidable. Hammond said it was “premature” to begin preparations for a hard Brexit. “Every pound we spend on contingency planning on a hard customs border is a pound we can’t spend on the NHS, social care or education,” Hammond said.

In sum, Hammond is not prepared to view the budget as a negotiating weapons and invest the billions demanded by Leave campaigners so as to impress on Brussels that the UK is prepared to walk away with “no deal.” Although Hammond testified on Wednesday that the British economy is “fundamentally robust,” he also made clear that there is currently “a cloud of uncertainty.”

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