Sat. Mar 23rd, 2019

Brexit: Chancellor Philip Hammond calls for cross-party compromise

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Philip Hammond and Theresa May Reuters
Chancellor Philip Hammond delivers his statement with Theresa May sat behind him

Chancellor Philip Hammond has signalled his backing for a cross-party consensus over Brexit, despite the PM still appearing to support her own deal.

He told MPs they had “a solemn duty in the days ahead to put aside our differences and seek a compromise”.

It came after Theresa May said the UK could still leave the EU with a “good deal”, despite MPs rejecting her plan.

Battling a sore throat, she said: “I may not have my own voice but I understand the voice of the country.”

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the PM to change course after her deal was “decisively rejected” by 149 votes on Tuesday.

The Labour leader repeated his calls for Mrs May to “move on from her red lines” and suggested his alternative plan to remain in a customs union was “the only show in town”.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith says the chancellor’s comments are likely to be seen as support for moves by senior cross-party MPs to forge an alternative Brexit agreement, possibly through holding a series of indicative votes to establish what MPs would be prepared to back.

Is Hammond calling on May to sacrifice control?

The PM could compromise to get a hypothetical softer Brexit through the Commons – but days later find out that she could no longer govern.

In this febrile atmosphere when the chancellor makes a call, as he has just done, to for a “consensus” across Parliament to find a way out of this hole, he is also hinting very publicly to the prime minister that it might be time now to think about making that sacrifice.

It’s important to remember that Mr Hammond’s preferred option all along has been to back the prime minister’s deal, to try to get it through.

But a mild-sounding call for compromise just now, is not necessarily politically mild at all.

Read more from Laura


After Tuesday’s defeat, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, saying the bloc “cannot go any further” in trying to persuade MPs to back the agreed terms of exit and it was down to the UK to sort out.

This evening, MPs will vote on whether to block the UK from leaving the EU without an agreement later this month.

If the government motion passes, the block on no-deal would only apply to the 29 March deadline.

It wouldn’t rule out the prospect of a no-deal exit later this year, if Parliament is ultimately unable to agree a way forward.

The prime minister has said she will vote to rule out a no-deal, but she has promised a “free vote” on the motion – meaning party bosses will not tell MPs which way to vote.

Treasury Minister Liz Truss has already said she will vote against her leader, telling BBC Two’s Politics Live that a no-deal Brexit was not the “optimal scenario”, but it had to be left on the table.

Hammond calls for compromise on Brexit

Chancellor Philip Hammond has signalled his backing for a cross-party consensus over Brexit, despite the PM still appearing to support her own deal. He told MPs they had “a solemn duty in the days ahead to put aside our differences and seek a compromise”.

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