Philip Hammond stumped over Boris Johnson's Brexit border remarks

PUBLISHED: 13:39 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:40 27 February 2018

Chancellor Philip Hammond


Philip Hammond was left bamboozled in the Commons after being mocked for Boris Johnson's remarks comparing the Irish border to that between Camden and Islington.

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Labour's Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) asked the chancellor to explain the benefits or otherwise of the plans the government "appears to have for a customs union between Camden, Islington and Westminster".

Speaking in Treasury questions, Mr Hammond replied: "I'm sure when I go home and reflect on it the deep meaning of that question will become clear to me."

MPs could be heard shouting "Boris" as the Chancellor spoke, in a nod to earlier comments from the foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson used a BBC interview to dismiss concerns that a hard Irish border would emerge after leaving the EU customs union, suggesting the lack of border checks between Camden and Westminster did not stop motorists paying the congestion charge.

Mr Hammond added to Ms Creasy: "If we look at the way goods and services flow freely between different parts of our own economy and indeed between different parts of the United Kingdom, we see at once the huge benefit it brings having frictionless borders as we move our goods and services."

The chancellor earlier called for an evidence-based approach to Brexit after Labour's Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) asked: "Does the chancellor agree with the former international trade permanent secretary that giving up the single market and the customs union is like giving up a three course meal for a packet of crisps in the future?

"If he does not agree then can he identify what specific evidence his department has seen that future trade agreements will outweigh the damage of leaving the single market and customs union, for business and jobs across the country but particularly in the north east?"

Mr Hammond replied: "It is the government's intention to maintain the highest possible access for British businesses to EU markets and she is right that we should approach this on an evidence basis.

"We should look for the evidence of value of our trade flows with Europe, what that generates in the UK in terms of jobs and we should look objectively at the opportunities that lie with third country trade deals and the likely profile of new jobs and new trade and new opportunities that can be created and we should weigh those carefully."

Conservative MP Vicky Ford (Chelmsford), a former MEP, asked how a new free trade agreement will cover services as well as goods.

Mr Hammond replied: "We are clear that a future comprehensive trade partnership with the European Union must include goods as well as services.

"A deal can only be done if it's fair to both sides and because of the shape of the UK economy it would be very difficult to see how any deal could be fair if it didn't include services.

"We have heard it asserted that it's impossible for services to be part of a trade agreement - I don't believe that is the case and next week I shall make a speech in which I will set out our view of how it is possible to include services within a such a trade deal."

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