British chancellor on Brexit talks: 'The mood music is changing'

File photo dated 07/02/17 of Chancellor Philip Hammond. The Government recorded its highest January surplus for 17 years, giving the Chancellor a boost ahead of the Spring Budget.Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA ImagesChancellor Philip Hammond.

LONDON — Talks between Britain and the EU over Brexit are becoming “increasingly pragmatic,” according to Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Speaking on ITV political show “Peston on Sunday,” Hammond said the mood music of the negotiations has changed since Theresa May set out her blueprint for Brexit in January.

“Some of the more extreme reactions that we heard immediately after the referendum have dissipated a bit and people who were feeling very aggressive towards us are now feeling a bit more constructive,” he said.

“I do think the mood music, the atmosphere has changed. Whatever is being said publically ahead of the negotiation, the private messaging is that people are now engaging with this more as a shared problem. Something that we have to solve together.”

He suggested that the UK’s European neighbours have realised that there is a lot at stake for the EU if an amicable agreement cannot be thrashed out after Article 50 has been triggered by May this month.

“There are lots of European jobs at stake in relation to exports to the UK, trade with the UK, and there is an increasingly pragmatic approach,” Hammond said.

Hammond was also asked about the potential £50 billion divorce bill that could be handed to the UK as part of Brexit. The House of Lords EU Financial Affairs Committee claimed this weekend that Britain would have no legal obligation to pay the fee, but the chancellor hinted at a softer stance.

“The prime minister has been very clear, we’re a nation that honours its obligations and if we do have any bills that fall to be paid, we’ll obviously deal with them in the proper way,” Hammond told “The Andrew Marr Show” earlier on Sunday. He did suggest, however, that the £50 billion figure may be a negotiating tactic.

He would not comment on the figure directly, but said: “We’re about to enter into a negotiation and very often … when you’re about to start a negotiation with people they set out very large demands and stark positions ahead of that. Obviously, this is a piece of negotiating strategy that we’re seeing in Brussels.”

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