It’s no secret in Westminster that Philip Hammond’s idea of the best Brexit possible is one that keeps Britain close to the EU. The Chancellor spent the last year issuing dire prophecies about the impact of a hard Brexit and his Treasury forecasts have become infamous for spelling out the doom and gloom of no deal.
But are Hammond’s Project Fear warnings catching on? Mr Steerpike can reveal, after the Treasury released documents under the Freedom of Information Act, that Hammond met with several business bigwigs last year, only for them to issue similarly dire Brexit assessments shortly afterwards.
Mr S is happy to present them to you now:
On 9 January last year, Hammond attended a swanky New Year’s reception hosted by Airbus at The Cinnamon Club in Westminster. Less than a week later the CEO, Thomas Enders, warned the country that ‘the wreckage that President Trump will leave after four or eight years in the White House will be easier to repair than the exit of the UK from the EU’. Enders said that Brexit wold strain the efficiency of Airbus’s operations, add costs, and ‘curtail the competitiveness’ of the whole aerospace industry.’
The second time Hammond met Airbus was on 14 July, at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire. That same day the head of Airbus in the UK, Katherine Bennett, came out in praise of Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit deal – widely panned as unfeasible by the European Union – which she described as ‘a step in the right direction.’ The Treasury says that it holds no minutes or agenda from her meeting with Hammond.
Jaguar Land Rover
Hammond met Jaguar Land Rover for the first and only time last year on 28 March, at a ‘productivity roundtable.’ Two weeks later on 14 April, the company released a statement saying that it would cut 1,000 jobs in the UK due to Brexit ‘headwinds.’
The Chancellor met Deutsche Bank shortly after the new year, on 10 January. According to the Treasury, the meeting was in order ‘to discuss financial services policy’, though the department holds no information or agenda about the meeting.
One week later, Stefan Hoops, head of the bank’s capital markets division, told a press meeting that the company would move ‘hundreds’ of its London employees to Frankfurt, Germany due to the impact of Brexit.
On 5 April, Hammond met the British car company Rolls-Royce. Two weeks later, on 23 April, it was reported in the Telegraph that Rolls-Royce was preparing to relocate the ‘signing-off’ of British-made airline engines to Europe, so that they could be certified by the EU aviation authority in case of a no-deal or hard Brexit.
On 8 February, the Chancellor attended a Japanese Inward Investment meeting, along with the Prime Minister, and several government ministers. The meeting was publicised at the time.
On the same day, the carmaker Honda warned that it would move operations out of the country if Britain did not stay in the EU’s single market and customs union.
Could it be that all these businesses, shortly after meeting the Chancellor, independently decided to issue Brexit warnings? Of course. But Mr S has to wonder if Philip Hammond has been doing some lobbying of his own to get his message across…