Hammond demands soft Brexit
UK finance minister Philip Hammond has called for a “soft” Brexit with only “very modest” changes to London’s relationship with Brussels in a significant intervention at Davos.
The former pro-remain campaigner told business leaders that he supported a call by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) for Britain to have the “closest possible relationship between the EU and UK post-Brexit”.
The most notable advocate for a soft Brexit said: “We are taking two completely interconnected and aligned economies with high levels of trade and selectively moving them, hopefully, very modestly apart.”
Hammond said national leaders had a duty “to make the case all over again for the societal benefits of continued cross-border flow of ideas, goods, services, people and capital”.
Meanwhile, arch-leaver Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of a group of 60 Eurosceptic Conservative Mps, made a speech saying the government’s tone on Brexit needed to “fundamentally change”.
Rees-Mogg’s speech said: ” If [opportunities are] taken off the table then Brexit becomes only a damage-limitation exercise. The British people did not vote for that. They did not vote for the management of decline. They voted for hope and opportunity and politicians must now deliver it.
“If we do not, if we are timid and cowering and terrified of the future, then our children and theirs will judge us in the balance and find us wanting. ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin’ – as the writing on the wall said at the feast of Balthazar. We have our future and our destiny in our hands.”
The right-wing MP was referring to the foolish Babylonian emperor from the Book of Daniel.
Meanwhile, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says the UK will have to continue making financial contributions to the EU if it wants access to the single market.
He said Brussels would take a tough stance on any free-trade deal, adding that he wanted a positive relationship.
Morawiecki told the BBC: “There has to be some price for full access and to what extent this access is going to be available has to be made dependent on some other contributions, potentially including this financial contribution.”
He conceded that this would be unpopular with UK leave campaigners. “Yes, but you cannot have your cake and eat the same cake,” he said.
But Brexit “bulldog” David Davis has rejected any plans to continue making contributions.
He said Britain was a “proud country” and would not pay “some sort of Danegeld”, in reference to a tax levied on the Anglo-Saxons to pay Viking raiders not to attack eastern England.
Morawiecki said he believed there was a small chance that London would U-turn on Brexit.
“I still have a little bit of hope that there will be a way of keeping the UK as part of the EU,” the new premier added. “I fully respect the decision from the referendum, but maybe there will be other ways for the UK as part of the EU.
“Because I think it’s in the interests of the trans-Atlantic community – the pax-Americana, pax-European peace type of model – and for the rest of the world.
“It is extremely important for security, and global trade, and positive trends in the world.”
Pro-EU campaigners in Manchester last year. Picture credit: Eurasia Times