PHILIP Hammond has pleaded with cabinet colleagues to stop undermining his bid for a pro-jobs Brexit after a spate of malevolent cabinet leaks exposed further the divisions within Theresa May’s Government.

In an unusual move, the Chancellor aired his frustrations in public, accusing hardline Brexiteers around the cabinet table of trying to damage his attempts to avoid a cliff-edge Brexit and secure a deal that would protect jobs and the economy.

He suggested a transitional period could last “a couple of years”; much longer than the few months some of his more right-wing colleagues believe should be the case.

Mr Hammond told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda which I, over the last few weeks, have tried to advance of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit, which is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs, and making sure that we have continued rising living standards in the future.”

The Chancellor said he did not know who had been briefing against him, although it is widely believed that he is at odds with, among others, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, two of the leading lights in the Leave campaign.

"They shouldn't have done it frankly because Cabinet meetings are supposed to be a private space in which we have a serious discussion," he complained.

"On many fronts, it would be helpful if my colleagues - all of us - focused on the job in hand. This Government is facing a ticking clock over the Brexit negotiations."

Asked if there was now a fight under way within the Cabinet to succeed Mrs May as Conservative leader, Mr Hammond added: "I certainly hope not. If there is, I am no part of it."

Over the weekend, leaks from the cabinet appeared in the Press seemingly designed to undermine the Chancellor, seen as being towards the softer end of the Brexit spectrum.

One leak claimed, amid cabinet divisions over lifting the one per cent public pay cap, that Mr Hammond had told colleagues he thought public sector workers were "overpaid"; a claim he denied.

Trade unions, who will take part in a demonstration about pay restraint at Westminster today, denounced the attributed remarks as showing an “arrogant contempt” for Britain’s 5.4 million public sector workers.

Another leak claimed the Chancellor had told Tuesday’s cabinet meeting that driving a train was now so easy that "even" a woman could do it.

It was said that when female colleagues looked askance at his comments, Mr Hammond tried unsuccessfully to dig himself out of the hole he had created, which prompted the Prime Minister to intervene, saying: “Chancellor, I am going to take your shovel away from you.”

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, who is seen as among the hardline Brexiteers, condemned the leaks, which, he argued, would only give succour to Brussels.

“I absolutely deplore leaks from the Cabinet. My colleagues should be very quiet, stick to their own departmental duties; the public expects us to be disciplined and effective.

"Our backbenchers are furious and the only people smiling at this will be in Berlin and Paris," declared the Scot.

Pressed on why people were leaking details, Dr Fox replied: “There's too much self-indulgence and people need to have less Prosecco and have a longer summer holiday."

Damian Green, the first secretary of state, sought to dismiss the row as tittle-tattle, telling Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics it was “characteristic July froth,” but he then told colleagues: “Now is absolutely not the time for this activity.”

Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, also warned his party to desist from feuding. He urged colleagues to “for once shut up, for God’s sake, and let everyone else get on with the business of governing”.

Meanwhile, opposition parties seized on the Tory turmoil.

Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservatives’ briefing war was “absolutely extraordinary” while John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, said cabinet ministers were “fighting like rats in a sack”.

Their Labour colleague John Trickett said Mrs May’s “zombie Government” had now given up on running the country and was instead turning in on itself.

"There are urgent issues facing the county such as Brexit, the housing crisis and declining living standards but cabinet ministers are in open warfare, briefing against each other and squabbling in public.

"It seems anything goes except doing what's right for the country. It's another sign of a PM who has run out of road. The sooner we're rid of Theresa May and her shambolic Tories the better," added the shadow cabinet office minister.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, added: “It is clear the Conservative government is more interested in tearing itself apart than getting on with the monumental challenge it has set itself on Brexit.”

Meanwhile today in Brussels, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, will start the second round of talks with his EU counterparts, saying it was time for the negotiating teams to "get down to business" with a call for "real progress" to be made on citizens' rights.

It is thought one of the sensitive subjects up for discussion this week will be Britain’s so-called “divorce bill,” estimated by some Eurocrats to be around £80 billion but which has been laughed off by UK ministers.