POST TIME: 22 July, 2019 00:00 00 AM
UK finance minister to quit if Johnson becomes PM
AFP, London

UK finance minister
to quit if Johnson
becomes PM

Philip Hammond's decision to resign as Britain's finance minister should Boris Johnson become prime minister thrusts him into the frontlines of a brewing internal revolt against the likely incoming leader.

The 63-year-old Oxford University graduate is one of Britain's most respected ministers among European leaders and a champion of London's strategically vital financial hub.

Both hope Hammond, an understated government veteran of nine years, will find a way to keep Johnson from pulling Britain out of the European Union without a divorce agreement on October 31 -- the "no-deal" option that experts warn could sink markets and cripple trade.

Former London mayor Johnson is the bookmakers' runaway favourite to beat Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the governing Conservative Party. The new leader will be announced on Tuesday and formally take over as prime minister on Wednesday.

But Hammond -- nicknamed "Spreadsheet Phil" for his dogged devotion to strict budgets -- has been that nagging voice who keeps telling Johnson that his promises of a bright no-deal Brexit future are misguided and dangerous.

"I will do everything I can from the backbench to ensure that parliament blocks a no-deal," the chancellor of the Exchequer said in an interview with two European newspapers that was published on Friday.

Hammond's bookish looks and gentlemanly charm disguise an entrepreneurial spirit and a fervent belief in Britain's ability to be a forceful voice on the world stage. The Financial Times  newspaper once called him "the product of Britain's swashbuckling (Margaret) Thatcher era: a risk-taker whose

business ventures sometimes did not pay off.”

Most of them initially did not, in his business life before entering politics.

His bid to sells trips to Iran was thwarted by the 1979 Islamic revolution.

He eventually stumbled onto a profitable property development venture that reportedly made him into a sterling millionaire with the confidence to enter politics.

There he excelled like few in his generation.

He was elected to parliament in 1997 and became transport minister when the Conservatives entered government in 2010 under prime minister David Cameron.

Hammond later served as defence minister and then foreign secretary — a post that saw him cross paths with Iran again by helping negotiate the 2015 accord with other world powers that limited Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

But he leaves the halls of power for the backbenches of parliament with a feeling of mission not quite accomplished.