No-deal leak blamed on Ham­mond’s Re­main­ers

John­son ac­cuses former min­is­ters of un­der­min­ing cru­cial talks with EU lead­ers

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - chief Po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent By Christo­pher Hope

BORIS JOHN­SON last night ac­cused a group of Re­main-sup­port­ing ex-min­is­ters led by Philip Ham­mond of at­tempt­ing to un­der­mine his bid to ne­go­ti­ate a new Brexit deal from the EU.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s team ac­cused the group of “de­lib­er­ately leak­ing” de­tails of Gov­ern­ment no deal plan­ning ahead of cru­cial talks this week with Em­manuel Macron and An­gela Merkel.

The war of words es­ca­lated last night as Mr Ham­mond de­nied he or his al­lies had leaked the “Op­er­a­tion Yel­lowham­mer” doc­u­ment and ac­cused Mr John­son of hav­ing “no ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy and no se­ri­ous plan for a no-deal”.

The leak of Yel­lowham­mer – White­hall code for prepa­ra­tions for no deal – to The Sun­day Times laid bare civil ser­vants’ con­cerns about the im­pact of a no-deal with­out ad­e­quate plan­ning.

How­ever, Mr John­son’s team said the plans – warn­ing of medicine and food short­ages and the risk of ri­ots – were drawn up by Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment and the leak was pur­pose­fully timed to frus­trate Mr John­son’s ef­forts to se­cure a new deal to exit on Oct 31.

No10 sources blamed one of a group of min­is­ters led by Mr Ham­mond, the former chan­cel­lor, and David Gauke, the former jus­tice sec­re­tary. A source said: “It has been de­lib­er­ately leaked by a former min­is­ter in an at­tempt to in­flu­ence dis­cus­sions with EU lead­ers.

“Those ob­struct­ing prepa­ra­tion are no longer in Gov­ern­ment, £2bil­lion of ex­tra fund­ing has al­ready been made avail­able and White­hall has been stood up to ac­tu­ally do the work through the daily min­is­te­rial meet­ings.”

A spokesman for Mr Ham­mond de­nied any in­volve­ment, say­ing: “It was ab­so­lutely not him.” Mr Gauke could not be reached for com­ment.

The Yel­lowham­mer doc­u­ment said that fresh food prices would rise, medicines would run short and there would be a rise in pub­lic dis­or­der. Petrol im­port tar­iffs would “in­ad­ver­tently” lead to the clo­sure of two oil re­finer­ies, while protests across the UK could “re­quire sig­nif­i­cant amounts of po­lice re­sources” in a no-deal sce­nario.

The leak of the doc­u­ment – marked “of­fi­cial sen­si­tive” – is the most se­ri­ous since de­tails of talks at Chi­nese firm Huawei were leaked in April.

White­hall in­sid­ers said doc­u­ments with this clas­si­fi­ca­tion were not meant to be re­moved from de­part­ments. Last night the Cab­i­net Of­fice de­clined to say whether there would be a leak in­quiry.

An in­sider close to Mr Ham­mond’s group took aim at Mr John­son’s han­dling of the Brexit talks and at Do­minic Cum­mings, his chief ad­viser, telling The Daily Tele­graph: “There is no ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy – and no se­ri­ous plan for a no-deal. This is all about un­elected ide­o­logues at No 10 [who are] hell-bent on an un­demo­cratic no-deal.”

Mr John­son heads to Brus­sels this week for his first di­rect talks with Mrs Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, and Mr Macron, the French pres­i­dent, since be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter.

Gov­ern­ment sources said he would make clear that threats by Re­main-sup­port­ing MPS would come to noth­ing.

Mr John­son’s strat­egy is to threaten mean­ing­fully a no-deal Brexit to per­suade the EU to re­move the Ir­ish back­stop from the With­drawal Agree­ment.

How­ever, aides to Mr Macron said he would say the back­stop can­not be re­vis­ited even if it means a no-deal Brexit.

Ms Merkel added: “I think it’s al­ways bet­ter to leave with an agree­ment than with­out one. But if that’s not pos­si­ble, we’ll be pre­pared for the al­ter­na­tive.”

No10 ex­pects there will be “very lit­tle dis­cus­sion” of Brexit dur­ing the vis­its. In­stead, dis­cus­sions will re­volve around next week­end’s G7 agenda.

Mr John­son will spread the mes­sage of the UK’S “re­newed global reach” at the sum­mit in Biar­ritz, France.

AS MANY as 40 Tory MPS are now back­ing a bid led by ex-cab­i­net min­is­ters Philip Ham­mond and David Gauke to stop Bri­tain leav­ing the Euro­pean Union with­out a deal on Oct 31.

Sources in the group – dubbed the “Gauke-ward Squad” – say the num­bers of MPS who now sup­port the re­bel­lion has jumped from 21 to nearly 40 af­ter de­tails of the group emerged last week.

The size of the po­ten­tial re­bel­lion will in­crease pres­sure on Boris John­son to avoid putting the ques­tion of the UK leav­ing the EU to a vote of MPS be­fore the UK is sched­uled to leave on Oct 31.

Mr John­son and his team are adamant that the best way of se­cur­ing a new deal with Brus­sels is to make clear that the UK is ready and will­ing to leave with­out a deal.

Last week 21 Tory MPS, in­clud­ing former Cab­i­net min­is­ters Mr Ham­mond, Mr Gauke, David Lid­ing­ton, Greg Clark and Rory Ste­wart, broke cover to make clear they are fight­ing a no-deal exit.

In a let­ter to Mr John­son, they said they were “alarmed” by his ne­go­ti­at­ing red lines, “which on the face of it, ap­pear to elim­i­nate the chance of reach­ing agree­ment with the EU”.

Sources close to the group said that the num­ber of Con­ser­va­tive MPS back­ing their po­si­tion was now sig­nif­i­cantly higher, with many of the ad­di­tional sup­port­ers re­luc­tant to be named in pub­lic.

There are at least 10 more Tory MPS who will back the group, and po­ten­tially a fur­ther seven, the source said. “As things go on we will get a bet­ter idea of num­bers,” they added.

The source said: “It should not come as any sur­prise that Num­ber 10 is try­ing to pick peo­ple off that group on the ba­sis that the strat­egy is not to go to no deal. There are lots of back-chan­nel con­ver­sa­tions.”

No meet­ings are planned this week, with key play­ers such as Mr Ham­mond and Mr Ste­wart, away from Lon­don.

How­ever, the group of Tory MPS is un­der­stood to be talk­ing reg­u­larly on the phone and on so­cial me­dia. One source said it will spend the next fort­night on “dis­cus­sions about strat­egy”. An­other source claimed that meet­ings had been ar­ranged in ho­tels away from West­min­ster to plot how to stop no deal when MPS re­turn on Sept 3.

A source close to the group said: “There are dis­cus­sions about strat­egy and how to use the min­i­mum pos­si­ble leg­isla­tive process to make sure that Par­lia­ment does have a say on this. This is not about bring­ing down a Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.”

A key fo­cus for the Re­mainer Tory MPS is how to use leg­is­la­tion os­ten­si­bly linked to gov­ern­ing North­ern Ire­land as a way to pass leg­is­la­tion to stop the UK leav­ing the EU on Oct 31.

“That pro­vides a use­ful hook in the first week and more likely on Sept 9. That would be a sen­si­ble di­rec­tion of travel that also avoids hav­ing to talk about con­fi­dence votes.”

Mr John­son made clear his frus­tra­tion with the Re­mainer Tories in re­ply to the let­ter from the “Gauke-ward squad” which was leaked to the Mail on Sun­day yes­ter­day.

Mr John­son said: “The EU can see the pub­lic de­bate among Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and they have been told pri­vately by some Bri­tish politi­cians that Par­lia­ment will frus­trate our exit on 31 Oc­to­ber.

“Some of you have said pub­licly that you are de­ter­mined to try to stop us leav­ing the EU on that date if we can­not se­cure a deal.

“It is as plain as a pikestaff that Brus­sels or the EU 27 will sim­ply not com­pro­mise as long as they be­lieve there is the faintest pos­si­bil­ity that Par­lia­ment can block Brexit on 31 Oc­to­ber”.

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