David Davis leaves continued EU payments on the table in Brexit negotiations

David Davis leaves continued EU payments on the table in Brexit negotiations

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, today refused to rule out Britain continuing to pay into the EU budget as part of a future UK-EU free trade deal after Brexit.

During Brexit questions in the House of Commons, Davis was asked by Labour MP Wayne David whether the Government would consider “making any contribution in any shape or form for access to the single market?”

The Brexit Secretary reiterated the Government’s aim of securing the “best possible access for goods and services to the European market”, but then added, “if that is included in what you are talking about, then of course we can consider it.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman backed Davis over the comments, saying that they were “consistent with what we have said to date, which is that it will be for the UK government to make the decision about how taxpayers’ money will be spent.”

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, also said that Davis was “absolutely right not to rule out the possibility” and stressed that the UK needed to go into the negotiations with “as many tools in our tool box as possible, and as flexible an approach as we can”, citing scientific research as an example of an area where it was “perfectly likely” that the UK might want to consider joint funding arrangements after leaving the EU itself.

It came as Boris Johnson strongly rejected allegations that he had privately told a group of EU ambassadors that he was personally in favour of free movement of people.

Prominent Eurosceptics, however, greeted Davis’ remarks with caution, with Iain Duncan Smith MP suggesting that the Brexit secretary may have been referring to “bridging arrangements” to phase out UK contributions to the EU.

Steve Baker MP, chair of the European Research Group, said “Paying for market access would not be free trade but the Government is right not to speculatively rule ideas in or out, however left field those ideas may be. Ministers’ comments seem to have been over-interpreted.”

A number of pro-Remain MPs welcomed the comments, with former minister Oliver Letwin saying that it could be a price “worth paying”, while Tim Farron accused the Government of sending “mixed signals” and being in an “absolute mess”.

Labour MP Pat McFadden, responding on behalf of the continuity Remain campaign, Open Britain, described it as a “rare dose of realism” but appeared to accept that the UK was seeking “preferential access to the Single Market”, rather than retaining full single market membership as other Open Britain supporters have previously called for.