Theresa May Refuses To Rule Out More Welfare Cuts In Run Up To Brexit
The new Prime Minister refused to offer any guarantees that she will not again take the axe to struggling families’ benefits if more Whitehall savings are needed in the coming months – despite the relentless Tory attacks on welfare since 2010.
And it comes after the previous Chancellor George Osborne announced in March that he had ‘no further plans to make welfare savings’ before the 2020 general election.
Asked by the Mirror if she will stick to that promise, Mrs May replied: “We are continuing the plans we have as a Government.
“Obviously we have to look and see what happens in the economy and how the economy does start to move – if there is any further movement post the Brexit result.
“We’ve got the plans that are there at the moment. Obviously anyone will be looking very carefully at how the economic situation pans out.”
Mr Osborne’s replacement as Chancellor Philip Hammond has already warned he may have to ‘reset’ the Government’s tax-and-spend policy if the economy starts to tank this autumn.
Mrs May’s comments – at the G20 summit in China – will fuel fears that welfare would be targeted yet again.
Her spokeswoman denied that was the case, saying: “There is an existing commitment not to cut welfare and that commitment still stands.”
But Mrs May arrived at the G20 warning of ‘difficult’ economic times ahead for Britain following the Brexit vote.
She said: “I think the reaction of the economy has been better than some had predicted post the referendum – but I won’t pretend it’s all going to be plain sailing.”
“There will be some difficult times ahead.”
Mrs May is poised to trigger the two-year countdown to Brexit by February next year, and Whitehall sources fear business confidence could falter as the date approaches.
Mrs May said a final decision on whether to deliver a major shake-up of tax-and-spend policy will be made in time for the Autumn Statement in late November or early December.
She said: “We’ll be looking at this issue. We have to take all the data into account.
“Obviously by the time of the Autumn Statement we’ll have more data available and we’ll have a better picture of what’s happening in the economy.”
But making clear there will be no end to Tory austerity, she added: “What I’m clear about is we’re going to continue as we have done in Government over the last six years – ensuring that we’re a country that can live within our means.”