Brexit talks: Hammond says jobs and economy the priority

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said that the UK should focus on protecting jobs and the economy on the eve of Brexit talks with the European Union.

Mr Hammond said the UK “should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity”.

The chancellor said Theresa May had set out her desired outcome in her Lancaster House speech in January.

But he said the UK would take a “pragmatic” approach to talks.

Mr Hammond had been due to give at speech at Mansion House in the City of London on Thursday, and there had been speculation he would set out his vision for a “soft” Brexit – which could mean the UK retaining closer ties to the single market and possibly remaining within the customs union.

However, the speech was cancelled following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in West London.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with other EU leaders in Brussels on Friday, Mr Hammond said: “We’ve set out very clearly our desired outcome in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and in the Article 50 letter that we’ve sent.
“But it is a negotiation, and as we go into that negotiation my clear view. and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is that we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward.”

In her Lancaster House speech, Mrs May had said that the UK would not remain a member of the single market. She also said: “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

Mr Hammond said on Friday: “I can confirm that as we enter negotiations next week, we will do so in a spirit of sincere cooperation, taking a pragmatic approach to trying to find a solution that works both for the UK and for the European Union 27.”