LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Wednesday it was “terrifying” that leading Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg, who could have a role in the next government, thought Britain could be better off by leaving the EU without an exit deal.
Hammond, who does not intend to continue as finance minister when a new prime minister is named next week, was responding to criticism from Rees-Mogg - the latest turn in a long-running row that typifies Brexit divisions in the ruling Conservative Party.
Hammond has warned that a no-deal exit from the EU could badly damage the British economy. Rees-Mogg, who has been linked with a role in government if fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson becomes prime minister, argues Britain could be better off.
“Happy to debate scale of negative impact of No Deal on the economy - but terrifying that someone this close to a potential future government can think we’d actually be better off by adding barriers to access to our largest market,” Hammond said on Twitter.
Rees-Mogg had written in the Daily Telegraph that Hammond’s views were “pure silliness” and said the economic model used to create his warning relied on assumptions that “range from the absurd to the merely dubious.”
The spat underlines the huge task that Prime Minister Theresa May’s successor will face to hold together a party that is still deeply split along the “Remain” and “Leave” battle lines drawn during the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison