Number Ten was yesterday forced to shore up the position of Philip Hammond as he came under ferocious attack from his own side for not backing ‘proper Brexit’.
In an extraordinary move, Theresa May declared her ‘full confidence’ in the Chancellor, who has been accused of delaying plans for a new work permit regime for EU migrants.
MPs said they could not recall another Chancellor in living memory needing such a show of support from a prime minister during his first three months in office.
In an extraordinary move, Theresa May declared her ‘full confidence’ in the Chancellor
Downing Street also ordered the rest of the Cabinet to stop sniping against Mr Hammond.
Senior Government figures have been alarmed by the leaks and anonymous briefing by ministers and ordered them to stop.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said: ‘We need to make sure we are all working together to make a success of Brexit.’
But MPs and ministers continued to criticise Mr Hammond for his ‘negativity’. One minister said: ‘It’s all very well for the Chancellor to wish to be pragmatic.
‘It’s another thing altogether if it looks like you are frustrating the public’s wish to regain control of immigration and bring down numbers.’
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, said Mr Hammond, a businessman, should ‘relish the opportunity of Brexit’.
He added: ‘I’m a bit surprised by the negativity coming out of the Treasury.
‘I think the Treasury may be re-heating some of George Osborne’s briefings and they need to move away from that and give their Chancellor proper information. Proper Brexit is what he needs.’
The controversy was triggered by revelations from a Cabinet committee on the EU.
During a meeting, Mr Hammond urged caution over plans to ban EU workers from entering the UK unless they have a skilled job.
MPs said they could not recall another Chancellor in living memory needing such a show of support from a prime minister
Government insiders denied there was a row, saying Mr Hammond was right to consider the wider impact of the blueprint on the City and big business.
But critics said it was part of a wider pattern of the Chancellor not appearing to ‘be with the Brexit programme’.
His Cabinet colleagues are irritated by what they call a ‘torrent of negativity’ from Mr Hammond and his officials on the economic prospects outside the EU.
In a bid to draw a line under the rows, Mrs May’s official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister has full confidence in the Chancellor and the work that he is doing.’
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also tried to play down the split, telling the BBC: ‘You would expect lively debates to be happening in government.’
In a move which could cause further tension, No 10 refused to rule out paying some contributions to the EU to maintain ‘passporting rights’ so City firms can continue trading on the Continent.
The promise that Britain would stop paying £10billion a year when out of the EU was central to the campaign run by Vote Leave.
No 10 said: ‘The Prime Minister is pursuing a collective government approach where, either at Cabinet or through cabinet committees, the relevant Cabinet ministers involved are able to discuss and debate issues before decisions are reached.
‘The Prime Minister is focused on making sure that we prepare for the negotiations and that we get the best deal for the United Kingdom.’
Mr Hammond was defended by other senior ministers. One said: ‘The Chancellor isn’t out on a limb here There are many people inside the Cabinet and the Government urging caution.
‘It isn’t about frustrating Brexit. It’s a case of acting in a way which gets the best deal.’