No money has been put aside to handle the UK “crashing out” of the EU if no deal is reached before the deadline, it has emerged.
British Finance Minister Philip Hammond rejected the notion that financial preparations would strengthen the UK’s negotiating hand in Brexit talks with the EU.
He told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the government was planning for all eventualities, but refused to dip into budgets for health or education.
“Some are urging me to spend money simply to send a message to the EU that we mean business. I think the EU knows that we mean business,” Hammond said.
“I don’t believe we should be in the business of making potentially nugatory expenditure until the very last moment when we need to do so,” he told the Treasury Select Committee.
David Jones, a former minister said the EU would interpret a lack of funding for a “no deal” scenario as a sign of weakness, essentially making the possibility appear only as a bluff.
But Hammond said that it was simply not necessary to allocate funding yet.
“We should look in each area at the last point that spending can begin to ensure we are ready for a day-one ‘no deal’ scenario,” said the chancellor.
The chancellor is regarded as one of the most pro-EU ministers, and voted to remain in the EU, creating concerns among Brexit supporters that he may not be fully behind the government’s stated agenda.
Theresa May herself also voted to remain in the referendum despite now championing Brexit—an issue which she struggled to handle when asked on Tuesday whether she would now vote to remain or leave.
When asked on Tuesday by LBC radio host Ian Dale how she would now vote in a referendum, she hesitated and struggled to give a straight answer.
“Yes and I’m prime minister ensuring I’m going to deliver Brexit for the British people,” she said.
Pressed again by Dale, May said: “I could say I would still vote Remain or I would vote Leave just to give you an answer to that question.”
“I am being open and honest with you. What I did last time round was I looked at everything and I came to a judgement and I would do exactly the same this time round.”
“But we are not having another referendum and that’s absolutely crucial.”
Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, who was a leading campaigner for Brexit, told the BBC: “She is entirely right to avoid being divisive.”
The Prime Minister was better prepared for the question at Prime Minister’s question time on Wednesday, batting aside the issue with more ease, but still refusing to answer either “leave” or “remain”.
However, in the meantime, her most senior aid Damian Green told BBC’s Newsnight that he still believed it would have been better if the UK had voted to remain in the EU.
“Nobody fought harder than me for remain,” he said. “I don’t resile my views.”
However, Green said that he still believed he could enact the public’s wishes.
“The public took their view, I’m a democrat, I believe that if people have spoken it is the job of democratic politicians to do their best to put in place what people wanted.”