BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain is likely to retain far-reaching access to the European Union’s single market after it leaves the EU and keep paying some kind of contribution to the EU budget, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May said last month that Britain would leave the EU single market of more than 500 million people when it quits the EU in 2019 and instead seek the greatest possible access to it through a free trade agreement.
“I think that both sides will come to an agreement on such a participation of Britain in the single market that it will not be of course full participation, but far reaching participation. For example like Switzerland,” Morawiecki told reporters, based on his conversations with British ministers and EU officials.
Switzerland’s relations with the EU are regulated by more than 100 bilateral agreements and the country has to follow EU law in areas linked to the single market.
Switzerland also pays a contribution to the EU budget, although less than Norway, which is a member of the European Economic Area and its formal links with the EU are stronger.
“We are not moving in a binary system, but in a system where the dial is on a scale. We believe that ... while Britain will not be part of the single market, there will be no customs and we will try not to impose quotas on each other and in exchange Britain will participate in some way in the EU budget,” he said.
He estimated that the departure of Britain, a net contributor to the EU budget, would leave a hole of around 7 billion euros annually.
Asked if Poland, a large net beneficiary of EU budget funds, would expect other net contributors to make up the difference, so that the flow of funds would continue, Morawiecki said:
“Our initial position will certainly assume that the EU budget should not be diminished. I would also not assume that Britain will not contribute at all to the budget.”
He said negotiations could lead to reducing the gap of 7 billion to, for instance, 3 billion euros.
“And if it is 3 billion missing a year, that is a small enough amount for both sides to reach a deal,” said Morawiecki, who is also Poland’s finance minister.
Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Alison Williams