THE GOVERNMENT is prepared to consider paying for the UK to access the European single market post-Brexit, David Davis has said.
The Brexit Secretary told MPs that ministers want to “get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market” after the UK has left the bloc and suggested the Government is open to the possibility of making contributions to the EU to secure that access.
It is the first time a Government minister has openly signalled that money could be handed over to Brussels to secure favourable trading terms with the continent.
Meanwhile, Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Brexit Committee, has urged the Government to publish details of its negotiating plans as he said MPs were “fed up” at the lack of detail.
The disclosure from Mr Davis regarding the possibility of continued access to the single market came in response to a question from Labour MP Wayne David (Caerphilly).
Mr David asked during Brexit questions in the Commons: “Will the Government consider making any contribution in any shape or form for access to the single market?”
Mr Davis replied: “The simple answer we have given to this before is, and it’s very important because there is a distinction between picking off an individual policy and setting out a major criteria, and the major criteria here is that we get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market.
“If that is included in what you are talking about then of course we would consider it.”
Mr Benn asked Mr Davis when the Government will set out its Brexit blueprint as he highlighted growing frustration amongst MPs.
He said: “In a week in which it has been reported that the Foreign Secretary has told EU ambassadors that he doesn’t agree with the Government’s policy on freedom of movement and that a Dutch member of parliament attended a briefing in Downing Street on the Government’s plans for Brexit, does the Secretary of State understand why the House is getting a little fed up with being told nothing?
“If he does, can he tell us when the Government will come forward with its plans for Brexit including on what will happen as regards any future contributions to the European Union after we have left?”
Mr Davis said he is due to appear before the Brexit committee in December and that members of the committee had visited the Department for Exiting the EU.
He said: “But you also know full well as a previous international development secretary, as a previous cabinet minister, that the approach to this, the probable success of the negotiations depend very greatly on us being able to manage the information and keep what needs to be secret until the last minute secret.
“In terms of the other things you talked about this week, frankly, this is all based on a presumption that a scribbled note in Downing Street actually is anything like Government policy. It wasn’t.”
Labour former shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander told Mr Davis “we are no further forward with a plan to leave the EU than we were five months ago”.
She asked: “Can the Secretary of State tell me when the Government is going to drop the pretence that Brexit can mean continued tariff-free access to the single market and an end to freedom of movement?
“Don’t the British public deserve better than this embarrassing charade?”
Mr Davis said the triggering of Article 50 was still “four to five months” away and that when negotiations begin the Government’s position will be “very clear”.