Philip Hammond has admitted Theresa May’s Brexit deal may not be able to get through the Commons amid swirling speculation that the prime minister could be forced out within days. After reports that cabinet ministers were plotting to force May out and would seek to force her hand in Monday’s cabinet meeting, the chancellor told
Philip Hammond has admitted Theresa May’s Brexit deal may not be able to get through the Commons amid swirling speculation that the prime minister could be forced out within days.
After reports that cabinet ministers were plotting to force May out and would seek to force her hand in Monday’s cabinet meeting, the chancellor told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that Conservatives colleagues were “very frustrated” and “desperate to find a way forward”.
But he said that talking about pushing May out was “frankly self-indulgent at this time”.
Hammond said changing prime minister would not “solve the problem”, but refused to be drawn on whether his colleagues had approached him asking him to make an intervention.
He made clear that May’s Brexit deal was in serious trouble. He said: “I’m realistic that we may not be able to get a majority for the prime minister’s deal and if that is the case then parliament will have to decide not just what it’s against, but what it is for.”
Intense speculation swirled over the weekend that a group in the cabinet wanted to oust May and replace her with her deputy, David Lidington, who would serve as an acting prime minister to try and resolve the Brexit crisis.
But Hammond, described as part of that group by the Sunday Times, said the report was not accurate. “That’s not right at all. My position is that this isn’t about individuals: this is about how we move forward.”
Nevertheless, amid other claims that Brexit supporters were lining up Michael Gove to take charge, cabinet anxieties about May and her ability to maintain control of the stalled Brexit process remain acute, with few in Westminster believing that she can get a revised version of her deal through the Commons in the coming days.
The chancellor said parliament would be given the chance to hold indicative votes on alternatives to May’s Brexit deal this week.
“One way or another parliament is going to have the opportunity this week to decide what it is in favour of, and I hope that it will take that opportunity – if it can’t get behind the prime minister’s deal – to say clearly and unambiguously what it can get behind,” he said.
But Hammond said a decision had not yet been made on whether Tories would be given a free vote on the matter.
He also said a second referendum was a “perfectly coherent position”, telling the programme: “I’m not sure that there’s a majority in parliament for a second referendum but it’s a perfectly coherent proposition. Many people will be strongly opposed to it, but it’s a coherent proposition and it deserves to be considered along with the other proposals.”