Brexiteers have accused Remainers in the cabinet of co-ordinating business attacks on Brexit in a bid to bounce the prime minister into a soft Brexit.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, head of the eurosceptic European Reform Group of Tory MPs, told Sky News he believed Chancellor Philip Hammond was behind the sudden flurry of businesses speaking up on Brexit.
It comes ahead of a crunch Chequers meeting of cabinet ministers next Friday to agree detailed plans on the UK’s post-Brexit future.
“I think there is cooperation between the Remainers in the cabinet and some businesses, some of the more politicised businesses,” Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News on a visit to the Irish border town Blacklion.
Asked who in the cabinet, Mr Rees-Mogg replied: “Oh, the chancellor. Boris Johnson was quite right when he said the Treasury is the beating heart of remain, that’s obvious.”
It is the latest salvo in a growing row between Brexiteers and Remainers in Theresa May’s government.
On Tuesday, Business Secretary Greg Clark used a speech at The Times’ CEO Summit to outline the softest possible Brexit, as he accused colleagues of undermining the government.
Tensions have been growing between business and Brexit-supporting ministers in recent days as the prime minister prepares to set out a “detailed and precise” plan for Britain’s post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU in a white paper, to be published on 9 July.
Mr Johnson, the foreign secretary, already at war with the Treasury over Brexit, drew the ire of business after reportedly saying “f*** business” when asked about what its influence should be on the UK’s departure from the EU.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the growing threats from businesses over Brexit were “completely inappropriate”.
Tensions flared after Airbus and BMW both warned in the past week that disruption to customs after Brexit may change their ability to invest and manufacture in the UK.
On Tuesday, Britain’s motor industry lobby group said that investment in Britain’s car industry has halved because of the uncertainty about the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Mr Rees-Mogg expects to see more interventions from business ahead of the Chequers summit.
“We’ll see a lot of business recognise there will be opportunities from leaving as well as concerns that they want to suck up to the Treasury,” he told Sky News.
A Treasury source told Sky News that any suggestion their department was trying to undermine government policy was “nonsense”.
“The Treasury is the champion of prosperity for the British people,” they said.
“All of us, government and industry alike must make the case for an EU exit that protects that prosperity, protects jobs and allows business to go on trading, investing and creating the growth that supports our economy.”
Brexiteers and Remainers in Mrs May’s top team are to have a showdown on what sort of Brexit the government should negotiate a week on Friday, when the full cabinet will meet in Chequers to agree what sort of post-Brexit customs rules the UK will seek to negotiate.
“It’s being called the body bag summit,” said one MP last week.
“They’ve either got to back her or quit. A couple of cabinet ministers could be coming out in black bags.”
The Brexit white paper had been expected ahead of a European Council summit later this week, but was delayed amid fierce infighting amongst Mrs May’s cabinet and parliamentary party about post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Brexiteers are demanding the prime minister honours her promise to leave the single market and customs union completely, while Remainers want close customs and regulatory alignment in order to minimise the disruption to trade.
Brussels and London have set an intended October deadline to reach an outline agreement on the future relationship the UK will have with the bloc post-Brexit.
This is the second time in recent months the prime minister has summoned her warring cabinet to Chequers to try to reach agreement on Brexit plans.
On the table at this summit is two variants of a customs arrangement post-Brexit.
The first is a “maximum facilitation” customs proposal, which would use technology and trusted trader status to minimise disruption.
The second is a “new customs partnership” whereby Britain will act on the EU’s behalf when handling goods – such as imposing tariffs – and then pass the money onto Brussels.
This would ensure an invisible border on the island of Ireland and allow for frictionless trade, but is an untested scheme which has been rejected by some of her leading cabinet Brexiteers.
From – SkyNews