Hammond Urges Brexit Hardliners to Stop Plotting

Philip Hammond, then Britain's foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015
Philip Hammond, then Britain’s foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

Philip Hammond, the number two in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, has urged ministers who disagree with his views on Brexit to stop leaking against him.

“It would be helpful if my colleagues — all of us — focused on the job in hand,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, The Sunday Times had cited as many as five ministers in a story that showed Hammond in a bad light.

The chancellor, who is responsible for economic and fiscal policy, reportedly called public-sector workers “overpaid” during a cabinet meeting. He clarified to the BBC he was referring to civil servants’ generous taxpayer-funded pensions. Read more

Hammond Pours Cold Water on Hopes of Soft Brexit

Philip Hammond, then Britain's foreign secretary, answers questions from reporters in London, England, November 30, 2015
Philip Hammond, then Britain’s foreign secretary, answers questions from reporters in London, England, November 30, 2015 (FCO)

After a disappointing election result, pragmatists in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party pinned their hopes on Philip Hammond to save them from a “hard” exit from the European Union.

It seems they miscalculated.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the chancellor ruled out continued membership of both the European single market and the customs union.

He also reiterated the Conservatives’ commitment to reducing annual immigration to the tens of thousands, a target the government has missed for years and which is inconsistent with a Norway-style deal. Read more

Hammond Confirms Two-Speed Europe British Objective

British foreign secretary Philip Hammond in Helsinki, Finland, January 8
British foreign secretary Philip Hammond in Helsinki, Finland, January 8 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, confirmed on Wednesday that a two-speed Europe is one of the island nation’s objectives as it seeks to renegotiate its membership of the European Union.

Hammond — who has said he would leave the European Union unless Britain gets a “better deal” — writes in The Irish Times that his government seeks reforms that would allow countries “that want to integrate further to do so while respecting the interests of those that do not.”

This applies most clearly to the eurozone where the United Kingdom does not seek to prevent further euro integration — indeed supports it — but does need guarantees that the interests of those not in the euro will be protected.

Other non-euro states, such as Poland and Sweden, are wary of a two-speed Europe that could see them relegated to second-class member states.

However, Germany, the bloc’s most powerful member, seems willing to accept this British proposal. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, told The Wall Street Journal last month he wanted to “combine the British position with the urgent need for a strengthened governance of the eurozone.”

The Atlantic Sentinel pointed out at the time that Germany’s interest in linking Britain’s call for less closer union with its own desire to strengthen governance in the eurozone could take the continent closer to a two-tier union: an integrated core of euro states surrounded by loosely affiliated countries like Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

According to Hammond, this concept would build on the existing architecture of the Schengen free-travel area and the European banking union, neither of which involves the British.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership once he has secured changes in the nation’s relationship with the continent.

Cameron, who was reelected last month, hasn’t made very clear where he would like to see changes. But analysts believe he wants to protect London’s financial industry from European regulations and stop immigrants from other European states claiming benefits in Britain on their arrival.

Some in the prime minister’s Conservative Party and members of the opposition United Kingdom Independence Party want to curtail the free movement of people as well — a right protected by European treaty.

Even if this is unlikely to happen, and more opt-outs for Britain would go hand-in-hand with a deepening of the European single market, especially in services, the country’s relations with the rest of Europe would become looser. It is unclear if other member states currently outside the euro area are interested in following that example.

The currency union’s nineteen members account for two-thirds of the European Union’s population and half its economic output.

Under existing treaty, all member states, with the exception of Britain and Denmark, are obligated to eventually adopt the euro.