Spreadsheet Phil heads to Europe on tour to deliver message Britain 'still cares'

Chancellor Philip Hammond

Chancellor and cabinet remainer Philip Hammond has been dispatched on a Brexit charm offensive, with a brief to assure European counterparts and business leaders that Britain "still cares" about them.

The man dubbed "Spreadsheet Phil" for his powder-dry demeanour is visiting European Union members Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal as part of his tour.

His first stop is Norway - which is outside the EU but is in the European Economic Area and part of the single market.

Its potential post-Brexit model has been rejected by Theresa May because it would not give control over laws or immigration and would require continued payments to Brussels, making it anathema to the Hard Brexiteers inside and outside the cabinet.

The tour comes as the UK prepares to reveal further details of its approach to the next phase of the Brexit process, which will focus on a transitional deal for the period after leaving the bloc in March 2019 and the future trading relationship with Brussels.

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Mr Hammond, the loudest cabinet voice for retaining close economic ties with the EU post-Brexit, had been seen as frozen out of decision-making, with other senior members of Mrs May's cabinet poised to deliver set-piece speeches in the coming weeks.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will set out his views tomorrow, while the prime minister will travel to Munich for a speech on security arrangements on Saturday.

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Further speeches will be delivered by David Davis, the Brexit secretary (on how Britain's businesses will maintain high standards), Cabinet Office minister David Lidington (on the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and international trade secretary and disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox (on how the UK will forge new trade deals).

Mr Hammond is not scheduled to make any major speech.

He said: "I am taking the message to Europe that, while we are leaving the EU, Britain still cares about its relationships with the countries, citizens and businesses with whom we share a close history and common values.

"We look forward to agreeing a new, deep and special partnership with the EU that keeps our relationship growing strongly in the future."

READ: It's the way he tells 'em - Philip Hammond's Budget jokes in full

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