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The BBC and Chancellor are frustrating the BREXIT process

The BBC and Chancellor are frustrating the BREXIT process

The attempt to instil Cabinet discipline comes after a series of newspaper headlines about Mr Hammond's comments at last week's Cabinet, culminating in a Daily Telegraph front page story quoting an unnamed minister accusing the Chancellor of trying to "f*** up" Brexit.

According to reports, Mrs May was forced to intervene over comments made by the Chancellor when he said new trains were so simple to operate that "even" women could become drivers.

Mr Hammond, who supported remaining in the European Union in last year's referendum, is seen as the voice of a so-called "soft Brexit" within Prime Minister Theresa May's Cabinet, favouring prioritising trade ties with the European Union over curbing immigration.

Mr Hammond did not give such an explicit denial to the claim in the Sunday Times that he had branded public sector workers "overpaid".

"I think you'll find the cabinet rallying around a position that maximizes our negotiating leverage and gets the best possible decision", he said on the BBC.

And when he tried to dig himself out of the embarrassing hole, he was interrupted by Mrs May, who said: "Chancellor, I am going to take your shovel away from you".

Clear divisions have emerged in the Cabinet over whether to ease the 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, and Brexit.

The government is unclear on so many major questions that Cabinet ministers who are individually clear are able to say what they think without being told that they've crossed the line because there simply is no line.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron claimed the government is tearing itself apart and said: "Theresa May has a choice: she either needs to back her Chancellor and sack the cabinet ministers briefing against him, or she needs to tell her Chancellor to stop making up serious allegations against his colleagues".

He declined to discuss the content of the leaks, and said he was not aware of any plans for a formal inquiry into how the information got out.

That could include a transition period lasting a "couple of years" after Brexit, said Mr Hammond, who acknowledged that Britain was ready to pay any outstanding bills when it leaves. "This Government is facing a ticking clock over the Brexit negotiations". He didn't disappoint, telling his colleagues to be a bit more "focused on the job at hand".

Mr Hammond refused to be drawn on a report by the Sunday Times that he said public sector workers were "overpaid" at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday, although a Treasury source insisted that he did not use the word.

There is of course the leadership factor, both in terms of Theresa May being present but not powerful, but also in terms of the burning ambitions of many ministers to replace her.

"I believe the great majority of my colleagues now recognise that is the right and sensible way to go, both in the United Kingdom and the European Union", he said.