Speech: Chancellor Philip Hammond REUTERS
Philip Hammond has withdrawn from a major speech in which he was due to flex his muscles over Brexit in light of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.
The Chancellor announced he would not be giving the annual Mansion House speech where he was due to announce new measures to protect growth during negotiations with the EU.
He tweeted after the blaze killed at least 17 people: "In view of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, I have withdrawn from giving the Mansion House speech tonight. My thoughts are with local community."
In the run-up to the speech, Mr Hammond was understood to be undecided how explicit to be over his belief that negotiations must include ways of keeping the benefits of the customs union and the single market, while having a lengthy transition period to allow businesses to adapt to any changes.
Cabinet ministers pushing for a soft Brexit have strengthened their hand on the senior Whitehall committee that will oversee the talks.
Damian Green, the First Secretary and a passionate Remain campaigner, has taken a place on the committee, alongside Mr Hammond.
Boris Johnson and David Davis, both Brexiteers, sit on the committee, which is chaired by the PM.
The Chancellor sent a clear signal of his priorities earlier today by revealing that the speech will announce moves to reassure businesses they will still be able to get access to investment funding after the withdrawal. Investors need certainty in order to continue to support the UK economy and create jobs as we leave the EU,” he will say.
“That is why we will fortify the vital financial support that helps businesses to grow — from cutting edge start-ups right through to large scale infrastructure projects.”
The Lord Mayor of the City of London was due to add his voice to a growing chorus of business leaders urging Theresa May to strike a Brexit deal with the EU before negotiations draw to a close.
Mr Hammond had been due to say that ministers are in discussion with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to ensure UK projects can access its funds during the remaining period of Britain’s EU membership. The EIB currently lends around £42 billion to UK projects including new London Underground trains and new tram networks in Manchester and Nottingham.
At the same time he was expected to say that the UK’s own financing schemes stand ready to provide additional support and certainty to investors.
The British Business Bank (BBB) will extend the limits of its venture capital investment programme to enable it to provide greater levels of investment into individual funds that would otherwise struggle to raise capital.
If necessary, Mr Hammond was due to say, he is ready to bring forward some of the £400 million in additional investment which he announced in last year’s Autumn Statement.
The Treasury estimates that in the short-term, up to £80 million could be released, unlocking up to £320 million of total investment in the coming months.