Chancellor Philip Hammond has dismissed speculation that he will push for a soft Brexit by arguing for Britain to remain in the customs union and single market.
Last week there were rumours that Hammond, who campaigned for Remain, would capitalise on Theresa May’s poor election performance and diminished authority to try to change her Brexit stance.
When interviewed in Luxembourg last week he twice failed to confirm that Britain would leave the single market.
In addition, unidentified sources told The Times that Hammond would urge the government to rethink its plan to leave the trade group, which guarantees tariff-free trade with other members but bans trade deals with third parties.
But now he has dismissed speculation that he wants to water down May’s Brexit stance that Britain “cannot possibly” stay in the single market.
This appears to be a double U-turn, signalling uncertainty within the Conservative party as Brexit negotiations get under way. Hammond has now readopted the position he held in March when he said it was “clear” the UK would leave the trading area.
“We’re leaving the EU, and because we’re leaving the EU we will be leaving the single market and, by the way, we’ll be leaving the customs union,” Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on 18 June.
“The question is not whether we’re leaving the customs union,” he added. “The question is what do we put in its place in order to deliver the objectives which the Prime Minister set out in the Lancaster House speech of having no hard land border in Ireland and enabling British goods to flow freely backwards and forwards across the border with the European Union.”
The UK’s negotiations with the EU to set the terms of exit begin today (19 June).