Chancellor Philip Hammond said today that Britain needs to focus on issues other than Brexit, with economic growth a top priority.
Speaking in Washington, where he is attending IMF and World Bank meetings, Hammond said it was is time to ‘get Brexit off the table.’
He said crucial economic decisions needed to be taken and that securing a Brexit deal would ‘release the bandwidth’ to do so.
Hammond added that the UK’s participation in the forthcoming European elections was ‘pointless’ and trying to secure a deal with Labour was ‘not his preferred route.’
But he conceded that talks with Labour offered a possible solution to the Brexit impasse that would allow him to plot the future of the economy for the next few years.
Hammond said: “I would like us to spend more of our bandwidth on growing our economy. Until a deal is done we cannot make decisions about the spending review.”
The UK will be forced to contest the European elections if a deal to leave the EU cannot be agreed by the end of next month.
Hammond said: “Nobody wants to fight the European elections… the only way we can avoid that is by getting a deal agreed quickly.
“If we can do that by May 22, we can avoid fighting the European parliamentary elections.
He added: “We want to ensure any British MEPs that are elected never have to take their seats in the European Parliament.”
Hammond dismissed claims that the Government’s handling of Brexit negotiations was viewed overseas as a national humiliation.
He said: “Britain is known as a bastion of democracy, and how we manage a challenging and complex issue like this is of huge interest.”
“In a year’s time, when this is behind us and people are focussed on other things, all this will be forgotten.”