Theresa May “has full confidence” in Philip Hammond
Theresa May has “full confidence” in Philip Hammond, Downing Street has said, after reports the chancellor was trying to slow progress towards Brexit.
Some newspapers say colleagues believe Mr Hammond is attempting to “undermine” the process by delaying decisions on migrant curbs.
But a Treasury source told the BBC the claims were “rubbish”.
The prime minister”s spokeswoman said the chancellor”s focus was “on how best to approach” Brexit negotiations.
This comes after the Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Hammond was one of a number of voices urging caution about plans for a new work permit system designed to reduce immigration that was discussed at a Brexit cabinet committee meeting.
It said Home Secretary Amber Rudd had presented plans for a post-Brexit visa regime that would see all EU workers forced to prove they had secured a skilled job before being allowed into the UK.
The newspaper said the plan was seen as confirmation that the UK would leave the single market as part of the Brexit process, something it said Mr Hammond was previously understood to have warned against.
The paper quoted a source as saying: “He is arguing from a very Treasury point of view. He is arguing like an accountant seeing the risk of everything rather than the opportunity.”
The Telegraph said there were claims on Sunday that tensions had increased to the point of creating fears Mr Hammond could resign as chancellor.
The Times, meanwhile, reported that Brexit-supporting ministers believed Mr Hammond was “not following Theresa May”s instruction that government “get on” with Brexit”.
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who supported the Leave campaign, accused Treasury officials of “negativity” towards Brexit.
He told BBC Radio 4″s The Westminster Hour they were “reheating” the referendum campaign briefings from the Remain-supporting ex-Chancellor George Osborne.
One Whitehall source told the BBC that it was natural that the current chancellor would want to think through the implications of any proposals for the City of London.
However, there was a growing consensus that what was described as “high-value immigration”, seen to benefit the City, should not be affected by Brexit, the source added.
But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the cabinet was “absolutely united” in wanting to get its decision right.
He told BBC Radio 4″s Today programme: “We must go through all the options. This isn”t the first time in the history of government where you read reports in the newspapers that may not actually reflect what”s happening.”
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Baroness Kramer said: “You don”t have to be an accountant to realise the huge risks of “hard Brexit” to jobs, wages and our economy. Just because some members of the cabinet wish to hurl us off the economic cliff, doesn”t mean everyone else is under some obligation to act like lemmings.”