Most top United Kingdom ministers back Brexit transition period: Hammond

Most top United Kingdom ministers back Brexit transition period: Hammond

"I think on many fronts it would be helpful if my colleagues, all of us, focused on the job in hand", he told The...

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the government was "more interested in tearing itself apart than getting on with the monumental challenge it has set itself on Brexit".

Labour MP Jess Phillips said: "Philip Hammond has disgraced himself with this remark, as well as managing to insult half the country's population". "If there is I am no part of it".

Hammond's defence came after a cabinet source at the meeting told the Sunday Times: "Philip used a fairly inflammatory phrase - he said they were "overpaid".

"But when you take into account the very generous contributions that public sector employers have to pay in for their workers' pensions, their very generous pensions, they are still about 10 per cent ahead".

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Appearing on the Sunday politics show, Britain's most senior finance minister denied that he had made the train driver comments - but did not contest his comments over public sector workers. Taking public sector pay before pensions contributions - that gap has now closed.

Mr Hammond defended his stance on public sector pay and added: "Public and private sector pay are on average around about the same level".

Mr Hammond blamed colleagues opposed to the agenda he had been setting out for extended transitional arrangements when Britain leaves the European Union in 2019 so business was not faced with a "cliff edge" break.

He said a transitional arrangement was "right and sensible both for the United Kingdom and EU" and could potentially take a "couple of years".

He said: "We have got to do this in a way that meets the concerns and requirements of both people who want a softer version of Brexit and those who campaigned hard to leave the EU".

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"We will need a long transition phase and the time needed does not diminish by pretending that this phase is just about "implementing" agreed policies as they will not all be agreed", he said. "These things can't be magicked up overnight", he said.

On the issue of a transitional deal with the EU, Mr Hammond suggested it would take "a couple of years" rather than "a couple of months" to phase in the final arrangements for Brexit.

"I think it undermines the position of the government in this massive negotiation we've got".

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith demanded an end to the damaging infighting today.

Mr Davis and Mr Johnson, both seen as potential leadership contenders, were among those in attendance at a Spectator magazine party last week at which Ms May's longevity at prime minister was widely discussed by guests.

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