Divisions have resurfaced in both main political parties over Brexit yesterday.
After Dominic Raab tried to allay fears over a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Chancellor Philip Hammond struck a less positive note highlighting the economic and social risks.
Tory divisions over Brexit were then exposed afresh as Mr Hammond warned that leaving the EU without any deal would deliver an £80bn hole in public finances. This came hours after Raab, the new Brexit secretary struck a determinedly optimistic note launching 24 ‘technical notices’. These advised businesses and consumers of how to protect themselves in the event of a ‘no deal’.
However, Hammond’s department then released a letter from the chancellor to Nicky Morgan, chair of the treasury select committee. In it, he highlighted Whitehall forecasts from earlier this year, suggesting the hit to economic growth if Britain left without a trade deal would force the Treasury to borrow an extra £80bn over the next decade.
This clearly opened another Brexit rift within the Cabinet. Brexiteets have been keen to attack Hammond. Conservative MP Marcus Fysh accused the Chancellor of embarking on ‘“another instalment of dodgy project fear”.
However, the World Trade Organisation – the rules of whom the UK and EU would revert to in the case of a ‘no deal’ – has said that whilst this would not be the “end of the world”, ‘no deal’ would not be a “a walk in the park” according to the BBC.
Similar divisions have briefly emerged in the Labour Party, albeit less publicly. The subject of these concerned the matter of a second referendum. This has been covered extensively given recent opinion polling which suggests that a majority of constituencies now favour remaining in the EU.
Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, argued against the case for second vote. He suggested that the outcome of this would result in civil disobedience.
However, just a day after Mr Gardiner made those comments, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Kier Starmer KCB QC appeared to dismiss that claim. In the event that Mrs May cannot get Parliament to back her Brexit plan, an outcome looking increasingly likely, then no options should be off the table, and this included a second referendum.
Whilst this does not mean that Labour are backing a second referendum, it is an indication that their position is not fixed, as was the case with the backing for Customs Union membership. If this is the case, then Labour may find itself backing a second referendum later this year after Party Conference in September, and this may be what Jeremy Corbyn needs to see off a potential split.