Lawson: He’s grossly negligent
A FORMER Tory chancellor yesterday accused Philip Hammond of being ‘grossly negligent’ in refusing to release billions now to prepare the UK for the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.
‘I fear he is unhelpful,’ Lord Lawson said. ‘He may not intend it, but in practice what he is doing is very close to sabotage.’
Asked what Theresa May should do with her Chancellor, he replied: ‘I think probably a reshuffle.’
Lord Lawson said that a ‘no deal’ Brexit was the most likely outcome from the negotiations because the EU was terrified other countries would leave if the UK is given a good trade deal. He told the BBC’s Daily Politics show: ‘The really important thing is we prepare for no deal. It is grossly irresponsible if we do not.’
The intervention from a Tory grandee fuelled speculation Mr Hammond could face the sack in an autumn reshuffle, particularly if next month’s Budget fails to impress. Mrs May planned to axe Mr Hammond after the election but had to drop the plan after losing her Commons majority.
No 10 yesterday offered the Chancellor only lukewarm support. Asked about Lord Lawson’s comments, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: ‘The PM respects the views of all Cabinet colleagues.’
Tory MP Nadine Dorries stepped up calls for Mr Hammond to go.
Mrs Dorries, a cheerleader for Boris Johnson, said: ‘What we need in the Treasury is a can-do man, and what we have in Philip Hammond is a can’t-do man.’
She said the Government needed a Chancellor who was more ‘positive and upbeat’ about the economy and Brexit. ‘We don’t have that at the moment,’ she said. ‘We have a sour Eeyore, and that is not good for the economy, it’s not good for UK plc and it’s not good for business in general.’
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith also urged Mr Hammond to strike a more positive note, saying: ‘You never win an argument by saying, we are in a terrible state and there’s nothing we can do.’
Mr Hammond’s parliamentary aide Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged he fields regular complaints about his boss from Tory MPs exasperated by his gloomy approach.
Mr Kwarteng insisted that Mr Hammond is signed up to making Brexit work. And he suggested his ‘temperament’ exacerbated ‘slight differences of opinion’.
Under pressure: Chancellor Philip Hammond
Preparations: Lord Lawson