Former UK chancellor: No mandate for no-deal Brexit

Pulling the U.K. out of the EU without a trade deal would be as much of a betrayal of British voters as not delivering Brexit at all, according to former U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond.

“There is no mandate for leaving with no deal,” given the British public was told a divorce agreement with the EU “would be the easiest deal ever done,” Hammond told the BBC’s “Today” program.

“Leaving the EU without a deal would be just as much a betrayal of the referendum result as not leaving at all,” Hammond said this morning. “It’s absurd to suggest the 52 percent who voted to leave the EU all voted to leave with no deal.”

The former chancellor, who resigned from the British government in protest at Boris Johnson’s stance on Brexit last month, said the PM has both privately and publicly said he could get a Brexit deal, “but I fear there are other people around him whose agenda is different.” The comments echoed an op-ed Hammond wrote for Wednesday’s Times, in which he lashed out at the “unelected people who pull the strings of this government.”

In the “Today” interview, Hammond took aim at the Johnson government’s decision to say the Irish backstop had to be cut from the Brexit deal.

“Pivoting to say that the backstop has to go in its entirety — a huge chunk of the Withdrawal Agreement, just scrapped — is effectively a wrecking tactic,” he said. “The people behind this know this means there will be no deal.”

Hammond reaffirmed his commitment to preventing no deal from being pushed through against the will of the parliament and warned against any move to suspend the House of Commons.

“Any idea of trying to bypass parliament by dissolving it for example and holing an election over the exit date would provoke a constitutional crisis,” Hammond said. Johnson has vowed to lead Britain out of the EU by October 31st, “do or die,” and refused to rule out suspending parliament in order to ram through a no-deal Brexit against the will of MPs.

Hammond also said the government’s no-deal preparation wouldn’t provide long-term solutions.

“Preparing doesn’t solve the longer-term problems,” he said. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal preparations, “is talking about an intervention fund to buy lamb and dispose of it … now that’s probably a perfectly sensible thing to do in the first few months … but you can’t do it five years later, 10 years later.”

Gove was reported to be considering buying up surplus lambs from farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The government denied the report.

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