Brexit Secretary David Davis has risked the ire of Eurosceptic MPs after he admitted the UK would be willing to pay for continued access to EU markets.
Responding to questions in the Commons, the Haltemprice MP said the Government would consider making contributions to secure the “best possible” deal on good and services.
He also indicated that ministers are aiming to finalise future trade arrangements with the EU within the two year negotiating time frame.
This would appear to rule out any need for a transitional deal, as the Government seeks to provide businesses with greater certainty about future trading conditions.
In a move that will prove unpopular with many who voted to leave the EU, Mr Davis told MPs today that the Government would "of course" consider paying to secure access to the Single Market.
He said one of the Government's main goals is to get "the best possible access for good and services" and if this required a contribution then ministers "would consider it".
The suggestion that taxpayers' money could continue to flow to the EU drew immediate criticism from both leave and remain supporters.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron accused the Government of sending "mixed signals" about its position on key issues like payments and freedom of movement.
“How can the government claim they have a mandate for their Brexit deal when they don’t even know what it is themselves," he said.
"They keep sending mixed signals on where they stand on basic, fundamental questions like access to the single market, payments to the EU budget and freedom of movement."
Pat McFadden, a leading supporter of pro-EU group Open Britain, claimed the announcement signaled a "rare dose of realism" in the Brexit debate.
He pointed out: "The Leave campaign’s story was that we could keep everything we have in terms of market access for goods and services but not have to pay a penny for it."
Downing Street defended the Secretary of State's comments, however, stating that Mr Davis' comments are "consistent with what we have said to date".
A spokesman said the Government "want to get the best possible access for British businesses to trade with and operate within the Single Market".
They added: "It is for the UK Government to make decisions on how the taxpayers' money is spent."
Mr Davis also appeared to suggest to MPs that the Government will attempt to finalise new arrangements on trade with the EU before the end of negotiations.
Ministers have faced repeated calls to secure a transitional trade deal with the Union to avoid a "cliff-edge" scenario where business face a sudden change in regulation and fees.
But responding to a question from Mr McFadden, he said the Government wants to complete Brexit and trade negotiations "in parallel, inside the two years".
"We want a smooth and orderly exit... We have made that plain to the European Union," he added.