Hammond: Brexit deadlock leaves little room for key issues

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media captionChancellor Philip Hammond at the IMF/World Bank spring meetings

It is time to get Brexit "off the table" so that Britain can focus on other issues, the chancellor has said.

Philip Hammond told the BBC that getting a deal done soon would release the "bandwidth" needed to take key economic decisions facing the country.

He called the UK's involvement in May's European elections "pointless" and hoped a deal would be done before then.

Mr Hammond was speaking in Washington, where he is attending World Bank and IMF meetings.

The chancellor said talking to the Labour Party about finding a way forward to resolve the Parliamentary impasse was not his "preferred route".

But it offered a new way forward to achieve a Brexit deal, after which he could concentrate on issues such spending and "where our economy is going over the next few years".

"I would like us to spend more of our bandwidth focused on growing our economy," he told the BBC's economics correspondent Dharshini David. "Until a deal is done we cannot make decisions about the spending review."

'All will be forgotten'

If a deal on leaving the EU cannot be agreed by the end of May, the UK is committed to fighting the European elections.

"Clearly nobody wants to fight the European elections. It feels like a pointless exercise, and the only way we can avoid that is by getting a deal agreed and done quickly.

"If we can do that by 22 May, we can avoid fighting the European parliamentary elections.

"In any case, we want to ensure any British MEPs that are elected never have to take their seats in the European Parliament by ensuring this is all done well before the new European Parliament convenes," he said.

The chancellor is in Washington at the World Bank and IMF spring meetings.

He rejected suggestions that the handling of Brexit negotiations was being seen overseas as a national humiliation.

"Britain is known as a bastion of democracy, and how we manage a challenging and complex issue like this is of huge interest," he said.

"In a year's time, when this is behind us and people are focussed on other things, all this will be forgotten."

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