SACK ‘SABOTEUR’ HAMMOND ( and that’s the word Nigel Lawson, not the Mail, chose to use)
As business chiefs call for Eeyore Phil to stop talking Britain down, one distinguished former Chancellor says...
BUSINESS chiefs last night rounded on Philip Hammond for being too negative about Brexit – as a former Chancellor called for him to be sacked.
A string of senior business figures said they were ready to embrace the opportunities of Brexit and urged ‘gloomy’ Mr Hammond to be more positive.
In a further blow to the embattled Chancellor, one of his predecessors, Lord Lawson, said he should be fired.
Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher, accused Mr Hammond of being ‘grossly negligent’, adding: ‘He is unhelpful. He may not intend it, but in practice what he is doing is very close to sabotage.’
Mr Hammond has come under fire for a string of gloomy pronouncements on Brexit. On Wednesday, he told MPs that the prospect of leaving the EU had created a ‘cloud of uncertainty’ that was damaging the economy.
To the fury of Downing Street, Mr Hammond also undermined Theresa May’s strategy on Brexit by insisting he would wait until the ‘very last moment’ before releasing money to prepare Britain for the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal. It came as:
EU negotiator Michel Barnier raised the stakes by criticising the Government’s ‘very disturbing’ refusal to pay a £90 billion ‘divorce’ bill and warning that talks were ‘deadlocked’;
The FTSE 100 index hit a record high – 19 per cent above its pre-referendum level;
George Osborne threw in the towel, saying
he did not think Brexit can be stopped;
Ministers were forced to delay the crucial EU Withdrawal Bill in the Commons while they consider 132 pages of amendments tabled by pro-Remain MPs;
Jeremy Corbyn said he would still vote to stay in the EU, but dashed the hopes of Remainers in his party by declaring: ‘There isn’t going to be another referendum.’
Mr Hammond has tried to position himself as a Brexit ‘realist’ who is championing the cause of business during Cabinet discussions. But business chiefs say his relentless pessimism risks taking down the economy.
Marcus Dolman, joint chairman of the British Exporters’ Association, accused Mr Hammond of being too ‘negative’.
Mr Dolman, a senior executive at RollsRoyce, urged the Chancellor to focus on the positives and support the Government in striking a good free trade deal.
‘He’s probably talking a bit negatively. We need to be positive about this,’ he told the Mail. ‘Businesses are resilient. They will be planning for all eventualities. If there is a hard Brexit then businesses will find a way around it.’
Tim Martin, boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon, said: ‘Philip Hammond is much too gloomy. He’s acting like a blocker in these negotiations.’ Gerard Lyons, chief economist at Netwealth, said: ‘The Treasury needs to move on. The Budget in November needs to be about boosting investment and infrastructure, and presenting a positive vision of the future.’
Others were less directly critical of the Chancellor, but emphasised the need for the Government to strike an optimistic note about Brexit. Industrialist Sir James Dyson said: ‘I’m enormously optimistic because looking outwards to the rest of the world is very, very important because that’s the fastgrowing bit.’
Sanjeev Gupta, owner of steel firm Liberty House, said: ‘I think there is a great opportunity for steel and engineering in Britain and I think if anything Brexit will deepen that desire and that opportunity. Everything in life which is a challenge is also an opportunity – everything has two sides to the coin – and I see Brexit as a push to British industry to be better.’
Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chamber of Com- merce, said: ‘ We are very positive about our future because we know we have great companies, whether we are in the EU or not.’
Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said Brexit offered ‘ enormous opportunities’ to sign free-trade deals and boost exports to key markets such as China and India.
Elizabeth Gooch, chief executive of tech firm EG solutions, added: ‘We all have to get behind Brexit. We only see the opportunity in the wider world.’
FOR the perfect antidote to the gloommongering Chancellor of the Exchequer, look no further than today’s Mail.
They are businesses large and small, from an array of industries, but they all agree on one thing: the Treasury’s in-house Eeyore couldn’t be more wrong on Brexit.
For while Philip Hammond sees leaving the EU as a long nightmare to be endured, many of Britain’s most dynamic business leaders spy only rich opportunities. Take Marcus Dolman, Rolls- Royce executive and chairman of the British Exporters Association, who says Mr Hammond is being too negative and firms will adapt whatever the outcome of talks.
Or Sanjeev Gupta, owner of steel firm Liberty House, who thinks Brexit will bring great opportunities. Or indeed Sir James Dyson, who envisages Britain turning away from sclerotic Europe towards fastergrowing economies in the rest of the world. Even top bankers have changed their tune, hailing the City’s resilience as Europe’s financial centre.
But still the Cabinet’s Bremoaner-in-chief sees disaster around every corner.
Is it too much to hope that Mr Hammond might learn from these buccaneering business leaders and start talking Britain up? The Mail isn’t holding its breath.
In a move of huge significance, Lord Lawson – Margaret Thatcher’s great Chancellor and one of the most successful post-war holders of that office – yesterday urged the Prime Minister to sack her errant Chancellor for sabotaging Brexit.
He also described Mr Hammond’s refusal to invest in preparations for ‘no deal’ as ‘gross negligence’. Indeed, the Mail would argue that by undermining our negotiating position in Brussels he is guilty of betrayal.
Worryingly, his disloyalty comes as cracks are starting to show on the EU side, and Cabinet unity couldn’t be more critical.
This is a singular moment in our history, when Britain needs a Chancellor with the vision to embrace a bright post-Brexit future – not this dismal defeatism. Mr Hammond needs to find his optimistic side.