LONDON: Britain would consider making payments to the European Union after it leaves to achieve the best possible access to the bloc's markets for businesses, Brexit minister David Davis said on Thursday.
The government is formulating its negotiating position ahead of formal divorce talks next year, and businesses have been seeking reassurance that it won't seek a "hard Brexit", prioritising curbing immigration over remaining in the EU single market.
Sterling bounced to an almost three-month high in trade-weighted terms after Davis's comments.
Davis was asked repeatedly by lawmakers during a regular question session in parliament about the prospect of having to contribute to the EU budget.
"Withdrawing from the EU means the decisions on how we spend taxpayers' money will be made in the United Kingdom," he said.
Asked by an opposition Labour lawmaker if the government would consider making "any contribution in any shape or form" for access to the EU's single market, Davis said it would.
"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 would consider it," he said.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokeswoman said the comments were consistent with what the government had said about Britain deciding how taxpayers' money will be spent.
Davis also said it was a "very high priority" for Britain to achieve tariff-free access to the EU.
"That may or may not include membership of the single market but it is achievable by a number of different methods," he said.
France and Ireland on Thursday vented their frustration at the British government's slowness in outlining its Brexit plan, saying that they wanted some clarity in the next few weeks.
Davis dismissed media reports that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had told several EU ambassadors he supports freedom of movement, describing them as "completely at odds" with what he believed Johnson's view to be.
May has said the referendum result was a message from British voters that free movement of people from the EU could not continue as it has done.
Official figures on Thursday showed net migration from the EU to Britain hit a record high of 189,000 in the 12 months running up to the June Brexit vote.