Britain’s minister for leaving the European Union tried to reassure businesses on Thursday that exiting the bloc won’t cut the U.K. off from much-needed international workers and investment.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said the U.K. was seeking “the freest possible market in goods and services with the EU and the rest of the world.”
In a speech to the Welsh arm of the Confederation of British Industry, Davis said Britain and the EU “should steer clear of protectionist measures.”
He conceded that many business leaders wanted to remain in the 28-nation EU and its tariff-free single market for goods and services.
The British government has refused to say whether it will try to stay in the single market after it leaves the bloc. EU leaders say that’s impossible unless Britain allows the free movement of workers from other EU countries — something the government says it won’t do.
Davis said that while Britain will be “ending free movement as it has operated before … we won’t do it in a way that is contrary to the national and economic interest.”
“No one wants to see labor shortages in key sectors,” he said.
Davis also said Thursday that Britain might be willing to pay into EU coffers in return for access to the single market. He told lawmakers in the House of Commons that “of course we would consider” making a contribution to the bloc if it means better access.