LONDON Britain wants a smooth exit from the European Union and will do what it is necessary to give businesses maximum access to the bloc's market with minimum disruption, Brexit minister David Davis said on Wednesday.
Davis also said his previous comments that Britain would consider paying into the EU in return for market access had been "slightly over-interpreted", and that the government was simply not ruling anything out or in yet.
Businesses and investors have raised concerns that Britain faces a "cliff-edge" after the Brexit negotiation period and on Monday Chancellor Philip Hammond backed the idea of a transition period to smooth the process.
Asked about Hammond's comments, Davis, who has been reported to be less keen on a transitional deal, said: "What we are after is a smooth and orderly exit. That is the overarching aim."
"Within that box we want to get the maximum market access for British companies with the minimum of disruption so we will do what is necessary to that aim," he told a committee of members of parliament.
He said Britain needed to know what the "end game" was before it decided on the transition, but if it was necessary there could be an "implementation phase".
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she plans to begin formal exit negotiations with the EU by the end of March and Davis said the government would do this earlier if it could.
Work is still underway to prepare for the negotiations however and there were still "quite a few" decisions to be made, he said, adding that the government would not be ready to publish its Brexit plans next month.
He also said he did not know whether Britain could halt the process of leaving the EU once it had begun, but it had no intention of trying to do so.
Davis said he did not think it would be possible to hammer out an adequate deal with the EU in as little as six months, but that an agreement could be reached on both Britain's exit and future EU relationship within the two-year negotiating period set out under Article 50.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan and Andy Bruce; Editing by Stephen Addison)