Ham­mond says UK will pay Brexit debts, ad­mits Cab­i­net splits

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Lon­don, UK - Bri­tain’s Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Philip Ham­mond said on Sun­day that Bri­tain will take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the money it owes the Euro­pean Union (EU) af­ter leav­ing the bloc, as he ac­knowl­edged the Cab­i­net was split over Brexit.

“We are a coun­try that al­ways hon­ours its obli­ga­tions. If there is any amount that is due when it’s been prop­erly quan­ti­fied and au­dited, of course we’ll deal with it,” he told the BBC.

“We’re not a coun­try that walks away from its debts.”

Ham­mond brushed off re­marks by For­eign Min­is­ter Boris John­son that the EU could ‘go whis­tle’ for its money, say­ing this was a di­rect ref­er­ence to claims that Bri­tain may be asked to pay up to € 100bn.

He de­scribed this fig­ure, con­firmed to AFP by EU of­fi­cials but never pub­licly an­nounced, as ‘ridicu­lous’.

Ham­mond con­firmed that Bri­tain’s fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment would be top of the agenda when the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, which started last month, re­sume in Brus­sels to­day.

He also said the Cab­i­net was com­ing closer to an agree­ment on the need for some kind of tran­si­tional ar­range­ment when Bri­tain leaves the EU, which could last a ‘cou­ple of years’.

But he ac­knowl­edged that min­is­ters were di­vided on other el­e­ments of Brexit, af­ter the week­end news­pa­pers were filled with re­ports of in-fight­ing - in­clud­ing po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing brief­ings against him over pub­lic sec­tor pay.

“Some of the noise is gen­er­ated by peo­ple who are not happy with the agenda which I, over the last few weeks, have tried to ad­vance of en­sur­ing that we achieve a Brexit which is fo­cused on pro­tect­ing our econ­omy,” he said.

Since the June 8 elec­tion, when the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tives lost their ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, Ham­mond has been in­creas­ingly out­spo­ken about the need to re­tain eco­nomic ties with the EU.

Be­fore the vote, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May had made clear that her pri­or­ity was cut­ting im­mi­gra­tion, a ma­jor is­sue in last year’s ref­er­en­dum vote to quit the bloc. But May has strug­gled to assert her au­thor­ity since the elec­tion, and weeks of me­dia brief­ings sug­gest ri­vals are po­si­tion­ing them­selves to re­place her.

Ham­mond in­sisted he was not part of this. “I think on many fronts it would be help­ful if my col­leagues - all of us - fo­cused on the job in hand. This gov­ern­ment is fac­ing a tick­ing clock over the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he said.

Bri­tain’s Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Philip Ham­mond

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