Chancellor makes Brexit plans

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images).
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images).

by Lauren Codling

THE chancellor has provided assurance that the UK budget can accommodate an “unexpected” Brexit deal, a treasury minister said on Monday (30).

MP John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, made the comments hours after the budget was officially presented in parliament by chancellor Philip Hammond.

The MP said the budget was made for what was expected to be a “good Brexit deal.” However, the government would “respond accordingly” if plans did not go as expected, Glen confirmed.

“We are making significant progress… [but] the chancellor has ensured in the budget that there is enough room to make steps if that be necessary,” he said.

According to reports, there is an additional £500 million to prepare for what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal – a situation Hammond has said would necessitate a new budget. Glen added there would be a spending review next year and that would come in the light of the deal the government are expecting from Brexit.

Hammond, who said the “era of austerity is finally coming to an end” in a parliamentary speech that lasted more than 70 minutes, announced several significant changes in the last budget before the UK leaves the EU next year.

In preparation for Brexit, the government revealed it would be proving an extra £500m of funding for departments on top of the £1.5 billion already announced. An extra £400m will be provided to schools this year, with Hammond stating it would help cover the “little extras” required.

The government would also increase the NHS budget by £20.5bn after inflation by 2023-24 and local authorities in England are expected to receive a further £650m in social care funding next year.

Mental health funding will rise by more than £2bn by 2023-24 and a new mental health crisis service is planned. Large social media platforms such as Facebook, search engines and online marketplaces will be required to pay a two per cent tax on the revenues they earn which are linked to British audiences.

Also announced is an extra £1bn for the Ministry of Defence to help protect against cyber-attacks and anti-submarine warfare capacity. Glen, who represents Salisbury in Wiltshire, said this new funding was “particularly important” to him following the novichok poisoning attacks by Russian spies in the area earlier this year.

The key message of the Autumn Budget, Glen added, was “showing the hard work of the British people is beginning to pay off”. “We are not complacent; there is still more to be done to eliminate the deficit,” he said. “But the direction of travel is clear. A fiscally responsible Conservative government is delivering on its promise to improve the public finances.”

In response to the budget, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said whatever Hammond had claimed, “austerity is not over”. He stated that the announcements were “half measures” and “quick fixes” whilst austerity continued. “And far from people’s hard work and sacrifices having paid off, as the chancellor claims, this government has frittered it away in ideological tax cuts to the richest in our society,” Corbyn said.