A REMARKABLE round of anonymous briefing against Chancellor Philip Hammond has openly displayed rifts within Theresa May's Government.

Cabinet ministers have acknowledged that there are disputes around the table about the best way forward for the administration. The most important divisions are believed to centre on Brexit, austerity and the future of the leadership – but where do the key ministers stand?

Potential leadership candidates

EVERY discussion about the Cabinet has to be framed by the fact that, after the disaster of the June 8 general election, no-one expects Mrs May to lead the Conservatives into the next general election. Any divisions are over the timing of her departure. Some believe the Tories are best served by her remaining Prime Minister until after Brexit in 2019, to provide stability and to soak up any toxic fallout from the compromises that will inevitably have to be made with Brussels. Others think the weakness of her position will embolden the EU to push for a tough deal with the UK, and she should be replaced quickly with a committed Brexiteer who can mount the strongest possible fight for Britain in negotiations.

Although he publicly disavows any ambition for the premiership, Brexit Secretary David Davis is seen as having most to gain from a swift handover of power. With Brexit certain to dominate the PM’s work over the next two years, some Tories believe it makes sense to combine the two jobs. And at 68, Davis cannot wait long if he wants a stint at Number 10. Others who may have something to gain from an early departure for Mrs May include Boris Johnson, though the Foreign Secretary’s chances of winning the top job are seen to have been damaged by his aborted leadership bid in 2016 and a series of Brexit-related gaffes culminating in his comment that the EU can “go whistle” for a divorce payment.

‘Hard’ Brexiteers

MRS May placed a trio of Brexit cheerleaders – Mr Davis, Mr Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox – in key Cabinet roles when she came to office, and they have led the charge for a so-called “hard” Brexit. This group is focused on the need to control immigration and get Britain out of the single market and customs union to gain the freedom to forge trade deals with other countries. Foremost in this faction is Dr Fox, a fervent Atlanticist who insists there must be no delay in starting trade negotiations with countries such as the US. Other passionate Brexit backers are Environment Secretary Michael Gove, International Development Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, as well as Andrea Leadsom, who attends Cabinet meetings as Leader of the Commons.

‘Soft’ Brexiteers

AN odd feature of the Government which is taking Britain out of the EU is that arguably its three most senior members – Mrs May, Mr Hammond and First Secretary of State Damian Green – all campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum. The Chancellor and Mr Green are thought to be among those arguing for a cautious approach to EU withdrawal, focused on the needs of the economy, with a lengthy transition period to allow businesses to adapt. Other soft Brexiteers are thought to include Ms Rudd and Business Secretary Greg Clark.

Austerity doves

IN the wake of the botched election, a rash of ministers broke cover to signal that it might be time to ease up on austerity and respond to public sector workers’ calls for an end to the one per cent cap on pay rises. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “sympathetic” with nurses’ pleas for better pay, Mr Gove said public concern over the funding of services was “legitimate” and Education Secretary Justine Greening was reported to have asked for an additional £1bn for schools, while sources close to Mr Johnson briefed journalists that the Foreign Secretary wanted “a better pay deal” for public sector workers. They have so far come up against immovable opposition from Mr Hammond, whose insistence on continued austerity to reduce the deficit has been backed by Mrs May.

May loyalists

MRS May has a phalanx of loyalists who worked with her in the Home Office and are rallying round her. Most prominent among them is Mr Green, a university friend of the PM. Others in this camp include Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss has also been seen as a protege of Mrs May’s.