Sajid Javid has denied the government’s policy of “no alignment” with European Union rules will damage the manufacturing industry.
The chancellor was asked whether comments made over the weekend that some firms would not benefit from Brexit meant he was prepared to sacrifice some UK manufacturers.
He said: “No, not at all. We look forward with confidence as we strike that new free trade agreement with our European friends.
“I can see a British economy that continues to go from strength to strength.”
Javid was speaking as he attended his final Ecofin, the regular meeting for EU finance ministers, as a member.
His stance appears to have softened since his comments over the weekend, made to the Financial Times.
Then, the chancellor said the UK will diverge from EU regulations after Brexit and said firms will have to “adjust”.
“There will be an impact on business one way or the other, some will benefit, some won’t.”
Javid made clear that “there will not be alignment” with EU rules on trade in goods. The EU has warned that this approach will limit British access to its markets.
This position caused automotive industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) to warn that any disruption to the car industry’s complex cross-border relationships could cost “billions”.
Asked about the reaction to his comments, Javid said: “We have been very clear now for many months, and of course in our recent election as well, as we leave the EU we will not be in the single market, we will not be in the customs union, and we will not be rule takers.
“At the same time, of course, we want a deep, comprehensive free trade agreement, and that’s what we are working on.”
However, he has today been accused of backtracking on statements made by Boris Johnson during the General Election campaign last year.
On a visit to the Nissan factory in Sunderland, Johnson said: “It is absolutely vital we protect the supply chain, it is absolutely vital we protect Nissan motors and we make sure people continue to invest in our country – and they will.
“I think, what business, large and small want to see is certainty about the arrangements.
“The thing about the deal we have got ready to go, is that as I say, it does protect the supply chains and keeps them intact and makes sure we have complete equivalence when it comes to our standards our industrial requirements and the rest of it.
“As we come out, it is all protected.”
Responding today, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “Increasingly Sajid Javid is looking completely out of touch with the reality our businesses are facing.
“He is reneging on the commitment that Johnson gave to manufacturers during the election campaign that they would be protected. Jobs are being put at risk by Javid’s rightwing ideology overriding common sense.”