May Keeps Options Open on EU Contributions After Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May said she remains ambitious on getting the best Brexit deal, keeping alive the possibility Britain may continue to contribute into the European Union budget to maintain advantages even after the country leaves the trading bloc.

Asked twice whether she would consider paying to keep some access to the single market, May said that the Brexit referendum was a vote to “take back control” of immigration and government spending. However she refrained from pointing to contributions as a red line in upcoming negotiations.

“We will be looking to negotiate the best possible terms that we can with the European Union,” she told reporters while traveling to Bahrain on Monday. “So I say crucially this is not about how we can take bits of what we’ve already got but what our new relationship with the EU is.”

While Brexit Secretary David Davis and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond both signaled last week that contributing to the EU budget may be a price worth paying to retain some trade ties, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Sunday declined to endorse the idea.

It’s unclear where May stands on the proposal. The U.K. last year paid a net 8.5 billion pounds ($10.8 billion) to the EU budget. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated in August that retaining single-market membership could be worth around 4 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, the equivalent of 75 billion pounds.

“It’s not just in our interests to have a good deal on trade and operations with the single market, I think it’s actually in the interests of European businesses who want to have access to the U.K. market as well,” May said. “So I’m ambitious that we can go out there and get that deal.”

May, who is in Bahrain to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council, will also announce joint measures to fight terrorism and strengthen aviation security in Britain and the Gulf. They include a joint working group on counter terrorism and border security and the appointment of three British cyber experts to help build capability in Gulf institutions.

Britain will work with the six Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman -- to implement more effective screening of travelers and share expertise to make it harder for terrorists to avoid detection at airports across the region.