The Chancellor said a speedy deal with Brussels on transition arrangements for the years beyond Brexit had to be the “first port of call” for boosting the UK’s economy.
He was responding to the latest GDP figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed sluggish growth of 0.3% in the second quarter of 2017.
Leading Brexiteers in the Cabinet have recently agreed to the prospect of transitional arrangements, or implementation phase, lasting a number of years beyond the formal date of departure from the European Union.
Mr Hammond told reporters today the details of that period needed to be ironed out “as early as possible” in order to “kick-start stronger growth”.
“There is a degree of uncertainty around the UK economy in particular because businesses and consumers are looking for clarity about what our future relationship with the European Union will be,” he said.
“That’s why we attach importance to, as early as possible, agreeing what the interim arrangements will look like as we leave the European Union in March 2019 and move to a long-term different kind of relationship with the EU.”
“The earlier that we can get agreement on transitional arrangements, the greater clarity business and consumers can have, so that’s definitely the first port of call in removing some of this uncertainty.”
He added that he could not give a “cast-iron guarantee” that there would be a transitional deal, since it had to be negotiated with the EU.
The ONS said the UK was experiencing a “notable slowdown” in the first half of 2017, while the International Monetary Fund recently downgraded its own growth forecasts for this year.
John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said the stats reflected “weak growth under a weak government”.
“The truth is that the Tories’ austerity cuts have undermined working people’s living standards and weakened the UK economy,” the Labour MP added.