Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are “dangerous and deranged” in their push for a hard Brexit, a senior Tory has told HuffPost UK.
The attack on the Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary was the latest vitriol in the increasingly bitter Conservative party row over exactly how the UK should quit the EU.
As Theresa May prepares to tell her Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that she will not tolerate any future leaking of private meetings, the simmering row over Europe continued to boil over amid briefings and counter-briefings.
Defenders of Chancellor Philip Hammond told HuffPost UK that he and Brexit Secretary David Davis were working closely to deliver the best deal for Britain, but their pragmatic approach was being undermined by hardline Leavers in the Cabinet.
After a weekend of attacks on Hammond and as Davis resumed talks in Brussels, the war of words at the top of the Tory Party was ramped up on Monday when one minister said the Chancellor was deliberately attempting to “fuck up” Brexit.
Hammond, who has backed a ‘soft’ exit that includes a two-year transition phase and puts jobs and trade first, suffered his third day running of negative briefing.
Johnson and Gove were both accused of briefing against Hammond after it was reported that he described public sector workers as “overpaid” and that driving a train is so easy “even a woman can do it” in a Cabinet meeting.
The Environment Secretary’s spokesman insisted the claims were “simply not true”, but both he and Johnson came under fire from allies of the Chancellor.
“Boris and Michael Gove have behaved so appallingly in recent days that they should disqualify themselves from high office. They should go back to being the juvenile scribblers they were before they entered politics,” the senior Tory said.
“They are so obsessed with a hard Brexit that they’re prepared to run the economy off a cliff – and they don’t like the fact that Philip is pointing out that we will deservedly lose the next election if we do that. They are dangerous and deranged.”
The counterblast came as Gove’s former aide Dominic Cummings attacked Davis as “thick as mince” and “lazy as a toad”.
Cummings, the former Vote Leave campaign chief who helped pull off the EU referendum result in 2016, launched the astonishing attack just hours after Davis returned from crucial talks in Brussels.
Cummings also claimed Theresa May “does not understand” the Brexit Bill unveiled last week, and it has a clause allowing the Government to drop everything in it if the EU demands it.
First Secretary of State Damian Green, on Sunday blamed the wrangling on too much “warm prosecco” and insisted Cabinet ministers needed a long holiday.
Speaking about the leaks, Hammond told the Andrew Marr programme: “If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by the people who are not happy with the agenda that I have over the last few weeks tried to advance of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit that is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs and making sure that we can have continued rising living standards in the future.”
On Sunday night, The Sun reported Hammond’s allies blaming Environment Secretary Michael Gove for the attacks.
But the journalist who reported some of the main criticisms of the Chancellor took to Twitter to deny that Gove had played any role.
A spokesman for Johnson said: “The Foreign Secretary has a terrific relationship with the Chancellor.” Sources close to Gove refused to comment on the “dangerous and deranged” remarks, but stressed the Environment Secretary had been wrongly accused of briefing the Sunday Times.