Jeremy Hunt has hit back at accusations that Theresa May has been too "timid" in her approach to the Brexit negotiations.
His intervention came amid renewed turmoil within the Tory Party after Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested the UK and the EU were only moving "very modestly" apart in trade terms.
In a speech yesterday (January 25) leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned the Government's "timid and cowering" approach risked squandering the potential gains of leaving the EU.
However, the Heath Secretary told the BBC: "Anyone who uses the word 'timid' about this Prime Minister is absolutely wrong.
"This is the Prime Minister that gave us absolute clarity after the Brexit vote that we were going to get back control of our laws, our borders, our money. The most profound strategic decision any Prime Minister has to make in the current circumstances."
Hammond's comments, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, drew a rebuke from Downing Street where a senior source said leaving the single market and the customs union could not be described as "very modest changes."
However, Hunt said the Chancellor was simply trying to make the point that the UK was well-placed to negotiate a free trade deal which resulted in "very limited" changes to its access to EU markets.
"The point that Philip Hammond was making which has been slightly overshadowed is that we start in the unique position with the EU of total regulatory alignment and that actually makes it much easier to negotiate," he said.
In a speech today (January 26), Brexit Secretary David Davis is expected to seek to reassure Tory Eurosceptics that the UK will exercise its independence as soon as the country leaves the EU.
It is also thought he will insist that Britain has the freedom to sign trade deals with other countries during the transition period after leaving the EU in March 2019, despite being largely tied into Brussels' rules during a two-year post-Brexit transition.