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Johnson: Plan for UK to pay for access to single market is 'speculation'

Boris Johnson has stoked Cabinet tensions over Brexit after he dismissed the idea the UK could pay "large" amounts into Brussels for continued access to the single market after it had left the European Union.

The Foreign Secretary insisted Britain's withdrawal from the bloc would mean the return of "very large sums of money" to be spent by the Government on UK priorities such as the NHS.

He described a suggestion by Brexit Secretary David Davis that the Government would consider paying to maintain access to the single market for British exporters as "a speculation".

Mr Davis angered some pro-Brexit Conservatives MPs when the told the Commons on Thursday that the "major criterion" in such a decision would be obtaining "the best possible access for goods and services" to the European market.

His comments fuelled suspicisons among some on the right that Theresa May is aiming for a so-called "soft Brexit" rather than the clean break with the EU which they have been demanding.

However, appearing on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said nothing had been decided.

"That is something that obviously David Davis is considering. It doesn't mean that a decision has been taken," he said.

He indicated any continuing payments to Brussels should be limited to relatively small scale projects such as the Erasmus student exchange scheme or the Horizon research and innovation programme.

"I see no reason why those payments should be large," he said.

His comments came as The Sunday Times reported Mr Davis had formed a "small clique" with Chancellor Philip Hammond and No 10 aimed at achieving a "grey Brexit" avoiding the extremes of either a "hard" or a "soft" break with the EU.

The Foreign Secretary - who led the Leave campaign with a controversial pledge to return £350 million a week to spend on priorities like the NHS - insisted however that withdrawal would mean large sums being returned to the UK Exchequer.

"I do believe that as a result of Brexit we will be able to take back control of the money that we currently give to Brussels," he said.

"Very large sums of money will be coming back to this country which will be capable of being spent on priorities such as the NHS. That will be one of the outcomes of Brexit."

He did however back Mr Davis over his promise to business leaders that the Government would not apply its post-Brexit immigration controls in a way that disadvantaged business.

While he said that immigration was currently too high, he declined to repeat the Government's pledge - first made by David Cameron - to get net migration down below 100,000-a-year.

"I would be in favour of a reduction but you can still have a very open and dynamic economy with immigration running at a reasonable level. That's what we want to see," he said.

He later risked further antagonising Theresa May by calling for student numbers to be dropped from the official migration figures - something the Prime Minister - has specifically ruled out saying they contributed billions in fees.

"I do take that view and I think it's of massive benefit to this country," he told ITV 's Peston On Sunday.


From Belfast Telegraph