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Britain's new chancellor: Pro banks, ambivalent about Brexit


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Britain's new chancellor: Pro banks, ambivalent about Brexit

Britain'snew chancellor, Philip Hammond, is said to be a "safe pair of hands" whosevoting record is likely to please financial institutions, as his stance on issuessuch as bankers' bonuses is much more in line with the Conservative Party's reputationthan new Prime Minister Theresa May's recentrhetoric.

Withinhours of succeeding George Osborne on July 13, Hammond expressed his supportfor Bank of England GovernorMark Carney, who had been criticized over perceptions of bias to the Remain sideduring the EU referendum campaign. Hammond also said the U.K. would not requirean emergency budget to deal with the falloutof the vote to exit the bloc, something Osborne had drawn criticism for suggestingduring the campaign.

A daybefore his appointment as chancellor, Hammond had also emphasized the importanceof Britain's financial services sector, tellingthe British Bankers' Association that financial services is "probably the mostdirectly affected" industry by Brexit and promising that the government "woulddo our bit to get you the certainty you crave."

Fiscal hawk

Accordingto various news outlets, Hammond, who was previously foreign secretary, has beenderided as "Box Office Phil" and "Spreadsheet Phil" becauseof his bland interviews and dry demeanor, and he has been described as "technocratic"and "the ultimate safe pair of hands in government."

But healso has a reputation as a "fiscal hawk," the Financial Times said July 11, which appears to be at odds with May'sapparently left-leaning approach to tax policy.As shadow chief secretary to the Treasury during the Conservatives' time in oppositionprior to May 2010, Hammond supported the party's proposals to cut public spending,The Daily Telegraph wrote July 14.

Accordingto TheyWorkForYou, a nonprofit that tracks MPs' voting records, Hammond has alsogenerallyvoted againsttaxation on bankers' bonuses, againstincreases in taxes for high earners and in favor of limitingthe influence of trade unions and enablingworkers to swap their employee rights for shares in the company they work for.

Eurosceptic Remainer

On Europe,Hammond supported the Remain campaign but has generally been opposedto greater EU integration. He has said the Brexit process could take sixyears, but although he has reportedly highlightedthe decision's "chilling effect" on the country's economy, he also saidthe current economic environment is unlike the one in 2008 and therefore does notrequire austerity measures, the FinancialTimes reported July 14.

May,meanwhile, said in launching her campaign to become prime minister that "weshould no longer seek to reach a budget surplus by the end of the Parliament,"a target that Osborne had set.

Havingserved as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, the department's highest ministerialposition after chancellor, Hammond had been poised to take the role in a Conservativegovernment, the Telegraph wrote July 13.But he lost out when the Tories failed to win a parliamentary majority in 2010 andwere forced into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who took control of thepost as part of the deal.

Havingworked in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, property and construction, and oiland gas sectors before turning to politics, Hammond ended up holding an eclecticrange of ministerial positions, too — first for transport, then defense and finallyfor foreign and Commonwealth affairs.

Other appointments

Elsewhere,May's most eye-catching appointment was arguably the promotion to foreign secretaryof the gaffe-proneBoris Johnson, the face of the Leave campaign and long mooted as a future primeminister before declining to run to replace David Cameron. But the former mayorof London will not be in charge of negotiating Britain's EU departure.

Thatcrucial task will fall to another Leave campaigner, David Davis, in the new rolefor secretary of state for exiting the EU. Like May, Davis wants to trigger Article50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts the two-year clock on official exit negotiations,by the beginning of 2017 and expects Britain's formal departure to be completedby December 2018.

LiamFox, meanwhile, will serve as secretary of state for international trade, anothernewly created post.