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...

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Ja­son Groves and Matt Oliver

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.

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