Hammond Hints He's Over Brexit, a Divorce He Didn't Want

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond signaled he’s at peace with the U.K.’s decision to quit the European Union, and said there’s no point trying to turn the clock back. But he let slip that it’s like a divorce that “nobody wants.”

Brexit backers criticize Hammond for what they see as his efforts to keep the U.K. tied as closely as possible to EU rules after the split. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called his department “basically the heart of Remain” in a private conversation leaked to BuzzFeed this week.

But on Friday, Hammond -- who voted to stay in the EU -- said it’s time to let other European countries pursue their goal of closer union while Britain, which always resisted those efforts, goes its own way.

“It’s a little bit like divorce. Nobody wants it, but there comes a point in the process when you just have to accept that it’s going to happen and decide that you are going to focus your energy on doing it in a civilized way and remaining good friends and constructive partners after the event,” he told the the German Association of Family Businesses Conference in Berlin.

The U.K. has held the EU back, delaying closer political integration. “It’s not a comfortable place to be, always saying no,” he said.

But closer integration also makes it “fanciful” to think the U.K. could ever rejoin, he said. “We have to stop talking about trying to turn the clock back.”

Hammond also defended May’s collaborative approach to Brexit, after the leaked tape revealed Johnson had said she should take a tougher approach and emulate Donald Trump.

“My experience has been that collaborative approach is more productive than confrontational approach,” he said. For that, he won a round of applause.

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