Theresa May is set to lay down the law with senior colleagues on the need to keep Cabinet discussions private, after a series of vicious leaks targeting Chancellor Philip Hammond.
The Prime Minister will use Tuesday’s regular Cabinet meeting to “remind” ministers that they should maintain silence about the content of meetings and focus on their job of delivering for the public, Mrs May’s official spokesman said.
The attempt to instil Cabinet discipline comes after a series of headlines about Mr Hammond’s comments at last week’s Cabinet, culminating in a story quoting an unnamed minister accusing the Chancellor of trying to “f*** up” Brexit.
Mrs May’s spokesman declined to discuss the content of the leaks, but told a regular Westminster media briefing: “Of course, Cabinet must be able to hold discussions of government policy in private and the Prime Minister will be reminding her colleagues of that.”
The infighting came as the second round of EU withdrawal talks got under way in Brussels.
According to reports, Mr Hammond was slapped down by the Prime Minister for saying that women could “even” become train drivers – a claim he denied. And a separate report said that he had told colleagues that public sector workers were overpaid compared to those in the private sector.
The Chancellor used a TV appearance on Sunday to accuse Cabinet rivals of trying to undermine his agenda for a “softer” business-friendly Brexit prioritising jobs and the economy.
But one unnamed Cabinet minister was reported to have hit back, claiming Mr Hammond was part of an attempt by “the Establishment” to prevent Britain ever leaving the EU.
The Daily Telegraph quoted the minister as saying: “What’s really going on is that the Establishment, the Treasury, is trying to f*** it up. They want to frustrate Brexit.”
SNP Europe spokesperson Stephen Gethins said it was “staggering” that the government was “increasingly distracted and divided” by infighting among cabinet ministers as Brexit talks get underway in earnest.
“Our EU neighbours have approached negotiations with a clear position, whilst the UK government has stumbled into the room unprepared and with confrontational rhetoric rather than constructive policy,” he said.
“The UK government’s Brexit negotiating position has as many holes in it as the Tory government itself following a week of further cabinet splits and leaks.
“Theresa May must get a grip and she must do so quickly.”