UK treasury chief: economy should be main focus in Brexit

Drop Brexit trade plan, Hammond tells Tories

Drop Brexit trade plan, Hammond tells Tories

Philip Hammond, Britain's finance minister, says protecting the British economy should be the main goal of upcoming negotiations over the country's exit from the European Union.

The debate within Britain's government about how to quit the European Union has been blown wide open by an election that left May without a majority in parliament and damaged her authority in the ruling Conservative Party.

The Brexit discussions are due to begin on Monday when the British minister in charge of the process, David Davis, meets the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels.

In contrast to May's uncompromising tone with its focus on controlling immigration, Hammond has long stressed the importance of ensuring that British employers can continue to find the skilled workers they need from the EU.

Speaking as he arrived in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU finance ministers, Hammond said the prime minister's pledges to take the United Kingdom out of the single market and the customs union remained the "broad principles" of the government's position going into the talks.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with other European Union 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".

Mrs May has said Britain will leave both the single market and the customs union.

But his planned address, and that of Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, was cancelled because of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

He will say the British Business Bank will extend the limits in its current venture capital investment programme and a UK Guarantee Scheme will offer new types of support, including construction guarantees, for major projects.

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