David Davis, the UK’s Brexit secretary, and Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, have acknowledged that the government would be willing to make EU budget payments in exchange for remaining inside the common market, an arrangement similar to that of Norway and Switzerland. However, just days later Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, played down the prospect of such payments, saying he did not envisage large sums being sent to Brussels. Mr Johnson refused to confirm the idea, dismissing it as “pure speculation”, stating that “I see no reason why those payments should be large”.
The issue is an awkward one for Mr Johnson, who stood behind the Vote Leave campaign’s pledge that Britain could retrieve £350 million in EU payments were it to leave to the EU. Mr Davis, on the other hand, has repeatedly made it clear that he made no such promise during the EU referendum.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Hammond and Mr Davis have formed a “small clique” within the government to drive Britain away from a “hard” Brexit. Whitehall officials have since denied the story, stating that the two have been working closely together for some time to reassure UK businesses that they will not lose out on Brexit. Officials have insisted that there is no wider split within the government and ministers’ approach to Brexit.