Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has become the most senior of leading Conservatives to suggest that a People’s Vote is the solution to the Westminster gridlock, and to warn of the risks of the likely alternatives – a general election or No Deal. He also suggested he would be prepared to vote against the next Conservative government in a vote of no confidence to avoid a No Deal crash out.
Speaking to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Mr Hammond said:
"But if we do get to the point where parliament has to admit that it cannot resolve this issue then clearly, as you say, it will have to be remitted back to the people. I am not sure that a general election can resolve the question for the simple reason that both the main political parties are divided on the issue... I can’t see that it resolves the question. There are many people with very, very strong views on this question.
“My strong preference would be for parliament to resolve this issue but if parliament can’t resolve it then parliament will have to decide how we remit it back to the people, whether it is in the form of a general election or a referendum."
Earlier he told Sky News:
“I couldn’t support a Government policy stance that said, as a matter of choice, we are going to pursue a no deal exit…I’ve been in Parliament for 22 years and I have never once voted against the Conservative whip so it’s not something I would do lightly or enthusiastically. But I am very clear that the national interest trumps the party interest. And if I am presented with a difficult choice, I will act in what I believe is the best interest of this country.”
The Chancellor’s comments come after a succession of leading Conservatives – including leadership contenders – have warned that trying to force through Brexit by ignoring parliament or calling a general election would lead on to political disaster:
- David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, warned a General Election would likely put Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.
- Jeremy Hunt, the current Foreign Secretary and leadership contender, warned that No Deal would be an economic and political disaster.
- William Hague, the former Foreign Secretary and Conservative leader, said that Brexit would have to go back to the people.
- Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, said that only a People’s Vote could break the deadlock.
- Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign and Defence Secretary, said that he had reluctantly concluded that a new public vote was the only way to resolve the crisis.
- Michael Heseltine, the former Deputy Prime Minister who was suspended from the Tory whip for using his vote last week to protest against the Government’s approach to Brexit, said he would continue to fight for his Conservative beliefs and values as a pro-European supporter of a People’s Vote.
Philip Hammond on Today Programme: https://twitter.com/peoplesvote_uk/status/1134001573141655552