David Davis put the cat among the pigeons in the chamber today. The Brexit secretary — who takes a more relaxed approach to discussing Brexit than his tight-lipped boss — talked at length as he was asked various questions on the government’s Brexit position. The news line came after Labour’s Wayne David asked if the government would consider ‘making any contribution in any shape or form for access to the single market’ after Brexit.
In response, David said the government would consider it:
‘The major criterion here is that we get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market. And if that is included in what he’s talking about, then of course we will consider it.’
The idea that the UK could still make payments to the EU after it leaves — in order to have the best possible access to the EU single market — does of course jar with the famous Vote Leave slogan of ‘£350m a week for the NHS’. While the pound surged following his comments, Peter Bone was quick to go on the offensive — telling the BBC that ‘people would be absolutely outraged’ if the UK continued to pay the EU.
However, on Davis’s part it could turn out to be a rather savvy manoeuvre. The government knows a compromise on freedom of movement would be a far harder sell than giving way on money. Germany does not want to pick up the cost of Britain’s EU contribution and smaller countries in the EU worry that — without Britain — the contributions overall could be reduced. This would in turn mean less funding for the struggling regions.