PHILIP Hammond has publicly slammed Gavin Williamson for threatening to send an aircraft carrier to China’s backyard.
He blasted the Defence Secretary for overstepping his authority by vowing to deploy HMS Queen Elizabeth.
PA:Press Association Philip Hammond has slammed Gavin Williamson over plans to send HMS Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea
And he accused his fellow Cabinet minister of imperilling Britain’s relationship with China by making the threat.
He stormed: “It’s a complex relationship and it hasn’t been made simpler by Chinese concerns about Royal Navy deployments in the South China Sea.”
Earlier this month The Sun exclusively revealed China axed trade talks with Britain worth billions in fury at the threat.
Just hours earlier, Mr Williamson had publicly lashed China and said Britain must be prepared to boost its “lethality”.
In a sign the furious Cabinet row is still raging, Mr Hammond launched a withering attack on his colleague.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme that Mr Williamson did not have the power to decide where to send the aircraft carrier.
‘RELATIONSHIP WITH CHINA IS VERY IMPORTANT’
He said: “This is entirely premature. The aircraft carrier is not going to be at full operational readiness for another couple of years.
“No decisions have been made or even discussed about where its early deployments might be.
“And when those decisions are made, they will be made in the National Security Council.”
Asked if Mr Williamson should “button his lip”, he added: “I think that it is very important that we manage this relationship with China very carefully and that we do it through the National Security Council.”
Mr Hammond had been due to hold talks with Chinese deputy PM Hu Chunhua last weekend.
China had been expected to lift their bans on British poultry and cosmetics which have not been tested on animals.
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The agreements would have opened up access to markets worth an estimated £10.2billion over five years.
Asked about the Cabinet spat, Theresa May’s spokesman said: “Our relationship with China is a very important one.
“We have strong and constructive ties on a range of issues and continue to do so.”
EPA Gavin Williamson has said that Britain must increase it’s ‘lethality’
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announces a fleet of new £100m F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets are now fully operational