Kwasi Kwarteng will return to the UK from Washington earlier than planned, as another major mini-budget U-turn is expected.
The chancellor was due to attend a final day of meetings at the International Monetary Fund’s annual gathering in Washington today.
Instead, after a hasty briefing with journalists late on Thursday, he announced he would fly home overnight.
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A source close to him dismissed suggestions that this represented a sign of panic and insisted that the chancellor’s focus was the medium-term fiscal plan.
Mr Kwarteng had been due to return to the UK from the annual IMF meeting later on Friday, but hasty changes were made.
Pressed on why there was a need for a last-minute schedule change, a Treasury source insisted that it was for talks on “the medium-term fiscal plan”.
The source said that the IMF trip had “put everything in a global context… a global set of challenges…”
On his return, the chancellor is likely to find a significant section of his mini-budget re-drawn following days of open revolt among Tory MPs and an expectation that another major U-turn is on the cards.
It comes amid speculation in Westminster about the fate of Mr Kwarteng, only a few weeks into the job, if his financial plans are scrapped in the coming days.
However, Mr Kwarteng has insisted that his position is safe, telling broadcasters: “I am not going anywhere.”
PM’s key pledge could be next casualty
Meanwhile, mounting pressure has been placed on Prime Minister Liz Truss to reassure the UK’s financial markets and rescue her administration, with her key pledge to scrap the planned increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% widely seen as a likely casualty.
Former home secretary Priti Patel became the latest senior Tory to suggest the government could be forced into another U-turn, telling Sky News “market forces” could make a reversal on corporation tax cuts unavoidable.
Downing Street has not denied the policy could be reversed, despite it being one of Ms Truss’s landmark promises.
Several reports have also suggested that senior Conservatives are plotting the possibility of replacing Ms Truss with a joint ticket of Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt.
The Times newspaper said party grandees are among those considering replacing her with a “unity candidate”.
Sky News understands Downing Street held talks on abandoning more elements of the £43bn tax-cutting mini-budget on Thursday, with proposed changes to corporation tax and dividend tax among the policies being considered.
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‘There are difficult choices’ to be made
Speculation surrounding the proposed changes have been fuelled by the chancellor following an interview he did with The Daily Telegraph.
Asked about the expectation that the government could ditch its corporation tax promise, Mr Kwarteng simply replied: “Let’s see”.
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‘Don’t prolong the pain’
He also insisted there would be “no real cuts to public spending”, but added that “there are difficult choices” to be made.
“You have to make sure that you know the public is getting value for money. And I make no apologies for that, there has to be some sort of fiscal discipline,” he said.
Since his mini-budget announcement at the end of September, the UK’s financial markets have been reeling, with the Bank of England forced to intervene to restore some sense of stability.
‘Get on and do it – we all know it’s coming’
Not only did his policies spook markets, but they also caused anger among the Conservative Party, with some senior Tories calling for changes to be made.
Newly elected Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns told LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr that she wanted the PM to succeed, but added her voice to calls for a change of course on the mini-budget.
She said: “The markets are not woke, the markets are not left. The fact they are not lefty, anti-government, the fact they have been spooked, is something that should be taken incredibly seriously.”
Former chancellor Ken Clarke told Sky News he has “never known a government to make such a catastrophic start”.
Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer also tweeted that the situation “needs a course correction” from Number 10.
“Get on and do it – we all know it’s coming,” he wrote.
The government’s plans revolve around securing an increase in economic growth – with a target of an annual rise of around 2.5% in gross domestic product.
The crucial date will be 31 October, when the forecasts presented by the Office for Budget Responsibility alongside the chancellor’s statement will give an assessment on whether such a plan is realistic.