Philip Hammond’s squeeze message to MPs trying to work out how to vote on Brexit over the next few days was clear: if they don’t reach a consensus, then there won’t be lots of lovely spending on important domestic policies such as social care.
Theresa May has been so busy procrastinating on Brexit that her failure to make decisions on these policy areas has not attracted the level of attention it deserves. The social care green paper, for instance, has been pushed back by over a year. This isn’t as much to do with Brexit as ministers like to make out, by the way, but all the same it is now highly convenient for the Chancellor to link the two. In his Spring Statement speech today, Hammond told MPs that assuming Brexit uncertainty was cleared up, he would be launching a three-year spending review which would feed into the Autumn Budget and include important priority areas, such as social care. But all this was at risk if the House didn’t reach agreement on a Brexit deal, he warned. In other words, reach a deal or the domestic policies get it.
Tory MPs have already been accusing Hammond of blackmailing them by making further public spending decisions contingent on their Brexit votes. But some realists wonder whether this government will really make it as far as an Autumn Budget, even if the Commons does pass some kind of deal.