London (AFP): British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office sought to downplay cabinet tensions over Brexit on Monday after reports her finance minister is antagonising colleagues with his warnings about the economic dangers.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has reportedly been pushing to delay measures designed to control immigration, which would likely be viewed by EU leaders as incompatible with continued membership of the single market.
One anonymous ministerial source quoted by the Daily Telegraph said: “He is arguing like an accountant seeing the risk of everything rather than the opportunity.”
Hammond had campaigned to stay in the EU ahead of the June 23 referendum.
The newspaper said there was even speculation Hammond might resign, although it quoted anonymous aides as saying this was “complete and utter nonsense”.
Reports that Hammond was irritating colleagues also appeared in The Times, laying bare tensions in government over how to leave the European Union, ahead of the start of formal negotiations by March next year.
May’s official spokeswoman sought to play down any rift, telling reporters: “The prime minister has full confidence in the chancellor and the work that he is doing.”
She added: “There is a real sense among the ministerial team that the government has a very important job to do which is delivering the will of the British people on leaving the EU.
“And they are focused is on working together to prepare for these negotiations.”
Earlier, health minister Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: “You would expect lively debates to be happening in government.
“Because we are going to get the right solution in terms of securing our borders, but also the right solution economically.”
The newspapers said Hammond had pushed for delays on measures proposed by Home Secretary Amber Rudd that would effectively close the door to unskilled EU migrants.
European leaders have stressed that membership of the single market — which British businesses say is vital — depends on continued freedom of movement into Britain.