‘Categorically untrue’ UK considering Swiss-style links with EU

Downing Street has called “categorically untrue” a report that Rishi Sunak’s government is considering moving the UK towards a Swiss-style relationship with the EU.

The Sunday Times reported that the move could happen over the next decade as the government seeks a closer relationship with the EU that avoids current trade barriers.

The Conservative government’s alleged change of heart, just a few years after Boris Johnson struck a deal with the EU after years of back-and-forth negotiations, caused a stir in Westminster.

Such a move would also likely put Tory Brexiters on the back bench and reopen many of the debates of the past six years.

However, a government spokesman called the story “categorically untrue”.

The spokesman said: “This government is focused on using our Brexit freedoms to create opportunities that drive growth and strengthen our economy.

“Brexit means we never again have to accept a relationship with Europe that would involve a return to free movement, making unnecessary payments to the European Union, or jeopardizing the full benefits of trade deals that we can now strike globally.”

We have a Prime Minister who himself supported Brexit. I myself have been Brexit Secretary and have worked very hard to maximize our control over our laws, our borders and our moneyHealth Secretary Steve Barclay

Health Secretary Steve Barclay had previously insisted he would not acknowledge such a report as he toured broadcast studios.

The Times indicated that some government officials have suggested behind closed doors that striving for a smooth trade relationship with the bloc requires moving to a Swiss-style deal in the next 10 years.

According to the paper, this would not be enough to bring about a return to freedom of movement.

“We have a prime minister who himself supported Brexit. I did it myself and was Brexit Secretary and worked very hard to maximize our control over our laws, our borders and our money,” the former Brexit Secretary told Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday.

“That’s why it’s absolutely important, especially in high-growth sectors such as financial services, life sciences and green industries, that we actually use the Brexit freedom that we have.

“So I don’t recognize that story at all.”

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Health Secretary Steve Barclay arrives at the BBC Broadcasting House in London to appear with Laura Kuenssberg (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) on Sunday.

When asked if he could support a Swiss-style relationship, he said: “Well, I didn’t support that. I want to maximize the opportunities that Brexit offers.”

Switzerland and the EU maintain close economic ties based on a number of bilateral agreements that give the country direct access to parts of the EU internal market, including the free movement of people.

The UK is in long-running talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit regime for the region designed to avoid a border with the island of Ireland.

Unionists have opposed the protocol because it impedes trade between Northern Ireland and Britain and establishes a border in the Irish Sea.

This has led to the collapse of the Stormont Assembly, leaving senior officials to run government departments.

However, in recent weeks there have been renewed hopes that an agreement can be reached and relations improved between the UK and the EU after years of tension.

A Swiss-style veterinary agreement was one of the options discussed by some on the EU side as a solution to the protocol dispute, while in the years following the Brexit vote an agreement inspired by Swiss-EU relations was seen as one of many options for the UK after it voted to leave the bloc.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt admitted this week that Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal has created damaging trade barriers with the European Union, as he said immigration will be “very important” to the economy.

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Former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost was among those who criticized any suggestion that the UK could move to a Swiss-style deal with the EU (Jonathan Brady/PA).

Mr Hunt also insisted the UK would find a way to improve trade relations with the EU without rejoining the single market.

On Sunday, former Works and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith said seeking a new Swiss-style rule was not a “wise move” for the government.

“I don’t think that would be a particularly wise move at this point,” she told Times Radio.

“I think the government has already acted on those particular ideas this morning and I don’t think that’s one that’s been advanced.”

Simon Clarke, the former secretary for higher levels, also criticized the idea.

The Tory MP tweeted: “I really hope and believe this will not be considered.

“In 2019 we clarified the question of the final exit from the European Union.”

Lord Frost, the former chief Brexit negotiator, also tweeted that if the report was correct he hoped “that the government would quickly consider these plans”.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News that Labor would neither join the EU’s single market nor seek to adopt a number of Swiss-style deals.

He said: “We are not proposing to go back to the single market or the customs union or anything like that.

“But we want to negotiate a bespoke deal for the UK, so our companies can export, so we get those agreements on farming, so we can work together on security issues.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/categorically-untrue-uk-considering-swiss-style-links-with-eu-42158882.html ‘Categorically untrue’ UK considering Swiss-style links with EU

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