Theresa May has not ruled out paying huge sums of money to Brussels in order to protect the UK’s financial sector and other key industries – coming days after toughening her stance on immigration and border controls.
A senior minister told the FT: “We would have to be careful how we explained it, but Theresa has been very careful not to rule it out.”
Former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin added: “If we have to buy this market access by making continuing contributions to EU budgets, that may well be a price worth paying, given the number of UK jobs that are involved.”
The Prime Minister has opted to fill her Brexit cabinet committee with hard-line Eurosceptics.
This has added fuel to claims that suggest Britain is leaning towards a hard Brexit and will remove itself from the single market.
Yet May’s Government remain divided over what form Brexit should take.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has spoken in the past of his hope to retain Britain’s access to the single market, while Dr Liam Fox has called for the UK to detach itself from Brussels and seek fresh trade deals with non-EU nations.
Tensions among her cabinet remain apparent, as Hammond has fought off claims this weekend he is set to quit as Chancellor.
The Remain campaigner’s aides described such claims as “nonsense” and that “there’s no issue. Things are working perfectly well”.
EU member states have laid down the marker that Britain should not be given access to the single market without accepting the principle of the free movement of people.
Angela Merkel has said Brexit talks “won’t be easy negotiations”.
The German Chancellor added: “If we don”t say that full access to the internal market is linked to full acceptance of the four fundamental freedoms, a process will spread in Europe in which everyone does what they want.”