A leaked conference call transcript revealed that Philip Hammond, the British Chancellor, has informed business chiefs that a no deal Brexit could be “taken off the table” and Article 50 rescinded.
In a conference call with 11 business leaders after the Brexit deal of Theresa May was defeated in parliament last Tuesday night, Hammond said that the result pointed to two issues. Firstly, whether Article 50 could be withdrawn and whether the UK government can “somehow take the option of no deal off the table.”
According to the said transcript that was obtained by The Telegraph, Hammond said that the European Union would not choose to extend Article 50 “until we have a clear plan to go forward.”
He was referring to a bill that was brought forward by a cross-party group of backbench MPs which desires to force the parliament to extend Article 50 if a Brexit deal is not agreed.
Hammond stated: “What this group of backbenchers has been doing is seeking to find a mechanism by which the House of Commons can express that view in a way which is binding and effective.”
The group of business leaders that participated on the call included the head of Amazon UK, Doug Gurr, and the chairman of Tesco and president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Allan.
When Allan asked whether removing the possibility of a no deal Brexit weakened the negotiating position of the United Kingdom, Hammond said that removing options had some “consequences.”
Meanwhile, 172 other business chiefs including architect Norman Foster and designer Terence Conran have written a letter to The Times supporting a so-called People’s Vote, or a second EU referendum.
Mike Rake, a former chairman of BT, Sir David Chipperfield, an architect, and Paul Nurse, the noble laureate and research scientist, were among the signatories.
The letter states: “Many businesses backed the prime minister’s Brexit deal despite knowing that it was far from perfect.”
It added: “But it is no longer an option. The priority now is to stop us from crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. The only feasible way to do this is by asking the people whether they still want to leave the EU.”
It noted: “With the clock now ticking rapidly before we are due to quit, politicians must not waste any more time on fantasies. We urge the political leadership of both the main parties to support a People’s Vote.”