The Tory former chancellor Philip Hammond has said to leave the EU without a deal would be “as much a betrayal” of the referendum as not leaving at all.”
He said a no-deal could cause “irreparable damage” to the union of the UK, and he hit out at “those who are pulling the strings in Downing Street, those who are setting the strategy.”
Hammond added that trying to “bypass Parliament” to force through a no-deal Brexit will “provoke a constitutional crisis.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Hammond said that Boris Johnson’s attempts to force the EU to backdown on the Irish backstop is “effectively a wrecking tactic.”
Hammond said, “Leaving the EU without a deal would be just as much a betrayal of the referendum result as not leaving at all.
“The British people were offered a proposition that we could leave the European Union while having a close relationship, they were told it would be the easiest deal ever done.
“And all the evidence points to people wanting to maintain a close trading relationship with the EU to protect British jobs and British prosperity and minimise disruption in the future.
“To set the bar for negotiations so high that we inevitably leave without a deal would be a betrayal and the prime minister said he would get a deal and we want to see him deliver that deal.”
He added, “We were talking until a few weeks ago about the need to change the terms of the backstop and I think, although that would have been an extremely difficult discussion, it was a tough negotiating position.
“But 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.
“The people behind this know that that means there will be no deal.”
Hammond said there is no mandate for a no-deal Brexit, and most do want a close relationship with the EU in order to protect the economy.
Hammond said, “Any idea of trying to bypass Parliament by dissolving it for example and holding an election over the exit date would provoke a constitutional crisis.
“We have an unwritten constitution but the principles behind it are very clear and one of them is that an outgoing government should not act in a way to prevent an incoming government from making key decisions.”
Adding, “More than 17m people did not vote to leave the EU with no deal. That is the key point here. There is no mandate for leaving with no deal.
“It is absurd to suggest that the 52% of people that voted to leave the European Union all voted to leave with no deal when, in fact, as the BBC itself has pointed out, during the referendum campaign there was virtually no mention made by the leaders of that campaign at all of the possibility of leaving with no deal.”
Hammond hit at those in Downing Street that are pushing in a different direction, as Johnson does want to reach a deal with the EU.
He said, “Boris Johnson has told me privately, and he’s told the country publicly, that he is determined to get a deal, and confident that he can get one.
“But I fear there are other people around him whose agenda is different.”
He added, “I think the important thing is the facts are still put out there. Over the last three weeks I have deliberately kept quiet to allow the prime minister the space and time to set out his plan for getting a deal that will lead to a good Brexit.
“But we cannot simply allow the government’s unsubstantiated message to go unchecked.
“A no-deal exit will cause significant harm to the UK economy and, potentially, irreparable damage to the union of the United Kingdom. People need to know the facts.”
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