Britain will not “simply slink off as a wounded animal” if it does not get the Brexit deal it wants, the Chancellor has warned.
Philip Hammond said the UK would “fight back” and do “whatever we need to do” to be competitive on the world stage in the event of leaving the European Union without a trade agreement.
“If there is anybody in the European Union who thinks that if we don’t do a deal with the European Union, if we don’t continue to work closely together, Britain will simply slink off as a wounded animal, that is not going to happen,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“British people have a great fighting spirit and we will fight back. We will forge new trade deals around the world. We will build our business globally.
“We will go on from strength to strength and we will do whatever we need to do to make the British economy competitive and to make sure that this country has a great and successful future.”
He refused to speculate on whether this meant the UK would slash business taxes to attract investment away from the EU.
“People can read what they like into it,” he said.
Mr Hammond added: “We are going into a negotiation. We expect to be able to achieve a comprehensive free trade deal with our European Union partners, but they should know that the alternative isn’t Britain just slinking away into a corner.”
Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of Britain’s exit from the EU by the end of this month.
However, she is facing growing pressure to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK post-Brexit – before a similar deal is reached with the 27 EU member states guaranteeing the status of the 1.2 million Britons living in Europe.
Members of the cross-party Commons Exiting the EU Committee – which includes high profile Leavers such as Michael Gove and John Whittingdale – have unanimously approved a report calling for the future rights of EU citizens in the UK to be immediately guaranteed.
It comes after the House of Lords last week overwhelmingly backed an amendment to the Government’s Brexit Bill demanding the same.
Hilary Benn, chairman of the Exiting the EU Committee, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that neither Britons living in Europe or Europeans living in the UK wanted to be used as a “bargaining chip”.
Mr Benn said when the panel heard evidence from Britons living abroad “you might have expected them to say ‘please don’t guarantee the rights of the EU citizens until you’ve sorted us out’. They didn’t say that”.
He said: “This is about people’s lives, their families, their futures.
“If we lead by example, I’m sure we’ll end up in the end with a deal where everybody gets to stay and that great uncertainty which is felt by those citizens – the Brits abroad and the EU citizens here – will then be put on one side.”