Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has refused to deny he told his Cabinet colleagues not to speak to the press as he attempted to play down internal splits at the heart of Government.
His comments come following a series of briefings against Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, including allegations he made sexist comments, said public sector workers are “overpaid” and is attempting to frustrate the process of Brexit.
One minister told the Daily Telegraph on Sunday that Mr Hammond is treating pro-Leave colleagues “like pirates who have taken him prisoner”, adding: “What’s really going on is that the Establishment, the Treasury, is trying to f*** it up. They want to frustrate Brexit.”
Asked about reports in the Sunday Times that Mr Grayling told colleagues “they should be careful not to go running to journalists, he replied: “Well as an example and I did not use that exact phrase no.”
Pressed again on Sky News, he added: “Well I actually didn’t say anything at all about it at the Cabinet meeting… we had a political discussion previously about the future strategy of the party and I think it’s really important that that remains a working progress amongst Cabinet ministers and party leadership.
“But again you see an aside comment has turned into something more – you cannot, I have to say, believe everything you read in the papers about what goes on in Cabinet meetings.”
Speaking earlier on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Transport Secretary, who denied leaking details of the confidential Cabinet meetings, insisted he didn’t see “these great divisions” portrayed in the Sunday newspapers, adding: “I have to say I think all of this is somewhat overplayed”.
Mr Grayling said the suggestion that there were “profound and fundamental differences” between Cabinet ministers on Brexit were “a bit exaggerated”, but admitted: “We’re not a group of clones, we have discussions around the Cabinet table and outside Cabinet, we debate issues, we decide what’s right and then we get on with it.
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“I’m very clear that the Cabinet and the party are united behind Theresa May, united in determination to get the right deal for the country in the Brexit negotiations and to make sure we continue the economic progress we’ve made.”
On Sunday, the Chancellor criticised his colleagues for briefing against him and said the damaging stories were coming from “people who are not happy with the agenda that I have”, which is to steer Britain towards a transitional exit deal with the EU.