Belfast Telegraph

UK 'keeping all options open' over Brexit amid Dutch calls to 'change attitude'

The UK wants to keep "all options open" in the Brexit negotiations, Philip Hammond said as a prominent European counterpart hit out at the Government's stance.

The Chancellor wants a "smooth and orderly" transition for the financial services industry and refused to rule out the possibility of continuing to pay into European Union coffers if necessary to secure an ongoing relationship.

But Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the Government's demands were "incompatible" with a smooth and orderly process.

The remaining EU nations are sceptical about what they see as a desire for the UK to "have its cake and eat it" by keeping the benefits of membership, such as the single market, while rejecting the free movement of people.

Arriving at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, Mr Dijsselbloem said British attitudes would need to change before the negotiation.

Mr Dijsselbloem, who holds an influential position as president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers from countries using the single currency, said: "It can be smooth and it can be orderly, but it requires a different attitude on the part of the British Government because the things I have been hearing so far are incompatible with smooth, incompatible with orderly."

He added: "There are different options that are not available. If the UK wants to have full access to the internal market it will have to accept the rules and regulations that go with that internal market. "

Mr Hammond stressed that it was in the interests of both the UK and remaining 27 EU nations to have " as smooth a process as possible, that minimises the threat to European financial stability and minimises the disruption to the very many complex relationships that exist between European manufacturing businesses and their financing banks and so on in London".

Asked whether the UK would continue paying into the Brussels budget in order to secure the best access to the single market - as suggested by Brexit Secretary David Davis - Mr Hammond said: "Our position is that we want to keep all options open.

"We are going into a negotiation, we are prepared to discuss any structure with our European Union partners but in the end we will only do a deal if it is in Britain's interests.

"In terms of any future contributions to any particular organisation, we would look at what was on offer, we would look at the cost and - as you do with anything - we would decide whether that was a good deal or not."

Mr Davis has also suggested a flexible approach to immigration controls after Brexit in order to avoid labour shortages.

Responding to that suggestion Mr Hammond said: "What we have said is that we want to keep as many options open as possible so that we go into these negotiations with as much flexibility as possible, recognising that they will be complex, they will be lengthy and we want to be able to negotiate in good faith with our European partners to see if we can find a way of working together in the future that benefits both sides."

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