Thursday 17 January 2019 9:05 am

Hammond tells business chiefs no deal could be ‘taken off the table’ on leaked conference call

City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email:

City A.M’s industry and manufacturing correspondent. You can follow me on @alexmdaniel, or email:

Follow Alex Daniel
Chancellor Philip Hammond has told business chiefs a no deal Brexit could be “taken off the table” and Article 50 rescinded, according to a leaked conference call transcript.

In a conversation with 11 business leaders after Theresa May’s deal was defeated in parliament on Tuesday night, Hammond said the result led to two issues. Firstly, whether Article 50 could be withdrawn and whether the government can “somehow take the option of no deal off the table”.

Read more: Stopping the clock: Can we buy more time to figure out Brexit?

According to the transcript, obtained by The Telegraph, Hammond said the EU would not extend Article 50 “until we have a clear plan to go forward”.

He was referring to a bill brought forward by a cross-party group of backbench MPs which hopes to force parliament to extend Article 50 if a Brexit deal is not agreed.

Hammond said: “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 on the call included included Doug Gurr, head of Amazon UK and John Allan, chairman of Tesco and president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

When Allan asked whether removing the possibility of a no deal weakened Britain’s negotiating position, Hammond said removing options had “consequences”.

Meanwhile, 172 other business chiefs including designer Terence Conran and architect Norman Foster have written a letter to The Times backing a so called People’s Vote, or second EU referendum.

Former chairman of BT Mike Rake, architect Sir David Chipperfield and the noble laureate and research scientist Paul Nurse were among the signatories.

The letter reads: “Many businesses backed the prime minister’s Brexit deal despite knowing that it was far from perfect.

Read more: UK not looking to delay Article 50, says Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay

“But it is no longer an option. The priority now is to stop us 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.

“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.”