Hammond plays down talk of UK holding second Brexit referendum

British chancellor says continued uncertainty causing damage

British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond in Washington, DC, on Friday. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond in Washington, DC, on Friday. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

 

British chancellor Philip Hammond has played down the possibility that the UK could use the delay to Brexit to hold a second referendum and stressed that he still expects Britain to leave the European Union.

EU leaders pushed the UK’s Brexit deadline back to October 31st at an emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday night, after MPs rejected British prime minister Theresa May’s exit deal on three occasions. The UK could still leave earlier if the deal goes through the House of Commons, with Mrs May in talks with the Labour Party to try to find a compromise deal.

Mr Hammond, speaking in Washington on Friday, said time would be too tight to hold a confirmatory vote before the new deadline of the end of October unless it was triggered over the coming weeks.

He said the damage caused by continued uncertainty – including problems attracting suitable candidates to replace Mark Carney as the governor of the Bank of England – meant it was vital that the Brexit issue was resolved as quickly as possible.

The chancellor was speaking as cross-party talks continued in Westminster. Mrs May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and the British environment secretary, Michael Gove, met the British Labour party’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, for talks both sides described as “productive”.

Timetable

“Talks are going on, constructive, so we are hopeful and positive. We are working out a timetable, there is a fair amount of detailed work that will go on for the next week or 10 days and then we will see where we are at,” Mr McDonnell told reporters afterwards, adding: “We’ll see by the end of next week how far we’ve got.”

Asked whether he had raised the prospect of a referendum on Brexit, he said: “It’s always on the table of, course: we raise that at each meeting.”

Some Labour MPs, including Clive Lewis, who is a member of Mr McDonnell’s shadow treasury team, are adamant the party should not sign up to any deal without a confirmatory vote attached.

“Any Brexit deal passed through parliament must be ratified by a public vote – this has to be the bottom line of negotiations, no ifs, no buts,” Mr Lewis wrote in his local paper, the Eastern Daily Press, on Friday.

Mr Hammond warned continued Brexit deadlock would put at risk his plan to announce the results of a long-term spending review in the autumn budget – previously billed as the “end of austerity”.

“If we get a deal through parliament in the next few weeks I expect to conduct a full three-year spending review of resource spending and a longer review of capital spending,” he said. “If we don’t get a deal done, it probably makes it inappropriate to do a long-term spending review.” – Guardian