Chancellor Philip Hammond has lashed out at Cabinet rivals who have been briefing against him, accusing them of trying to undermine his attempts to secure a Brexit deal which protected jobs and the economy.
Mr Hammond has been hit by a series of press reports claiming he told the Cabinet that public sector workers were “overpaid”, and that driving a train was now so easy “even” a woman could do it.
And Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary, warned yesterday it could damage the UK’s negotiating hand against other European nations when the second round of Brexit talks get under way in Brussels later today.
Mr Fox criticised those responsible and called for them to back off.
“I absolutely deplore leaks from the Cabinet,” he said. “I think my colleagues should be very quiet, stick to their own departmental duties and I think the public expects us to be disciplined and effective.
“Our backbenchers are furious and the only people smiling at this will be in Berlin and Paris.”
Pressed on why people were leaking details, Mr Fox said: “I think there’s too much self-indulgence and I think people need to have less prosecco and have a longer summer holiday.”
He added: “I don’t know where the briefing is coming from but I know it should stop because our colleagues on the backbenches do not like it.
“I think it undermines the position of the government in this massive negotiation we’ve got. We don’t need an interim leader, we don’t need an alternative leader. We have a very good, competent leader in Theresa May.”
Mr Hammond blamed colleagues opposed to the agenda he had been setting out for extended transitional arrangements when Britain leaves the EU in 2019 so business was not faced with a “cliff edge” break.
He said: “Some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda which I, over the last few weeks, have tried to advance of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit which is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs, and making sure that we have continued rising living standards in the future.”
Mr Hammond said he did not know who had been briefing against him, although the Chancellor is widely believed to be at odds with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Mr Hammond said: “They shouldn’t have done it frankly because Cabinet meetings are supposed to be a private space in which we have a serious discussion.”