The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has signalled that he would be prepared to vote against a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday, July 2nd.
During Treasury Questions in the House of Commons, Hammond was asked by Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell if he would join Labour “in committing himself to doing everything he possibly can to oppose the prorogation of Parliament to try to sneak a no-deal through, and also voting against a no-deal?.” This would mean Hammond voting against no-deal and opposing any attempt by a new prime minister to stop Parliament sitting in order to let a no-deal Brexit go ahead.
The BBC reported that in response, Hammond signalled that he would be prepared to vote against a no-deal Brexit in Parliament. He said that leaving the European Union without a deal in place, could cost the UK up to £90 billion over the next 15 years. Choosing a no-deal option would be the "wrong" policy and cause a huge "hit" to public finances, he said.
Hammond predicted it was "highly unlikely" he would still be in his job after a new prime minister takes over from Theresa May next month, but that it would be up to MPs to ensure that no-deal "doesn't happen".
The Guardian interpreted Hammond’s similarly as “a heavy hint” that he would be prepared to break the Conservative Party expectations to block a no-deal Brexit.
After seeing the exchange between the two men, who agreed on the threat posed by a no-deal Brexit and joked amicably, the Guardian stated that the next prime minister will have to face a reinvigorated “Gaukward squad”. The so-called group was given its name as a combination of the term ‘awkward squad’, which usually describes a group of individuals who resist or obstruct change within an organisation, and the name of one of its members, Lord Chancellor, David Gauke. Philip Hammond is seen as one of the “Gaukward squad”.
The senior Conservative Party members made clear their determination to block a no-deal Brexit if they were to be dispatched to the backbenches.
The surprisingly open statements came after the Conservative leadership race has been dominated by Brexit, with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt both insisting they would be willing to leave the EU without a deal if they could not secure concessions from Brussels during the summer.
Hammond, in response, has made a series of increasingly forthright interventions in recent days.
On Monday, Hammond objected publicly to promises the two final contenders in the Conservative Party leadership race had made. He warned Johnson and Hunt that their expensive spending promises will be impossible to deliver if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.
Hammond said that unless Britain made an orderly exit from the EU, the government's "fiscal firepower will all be needed to plug the hole a 'no-deal' Brexit will make in the public finances."