Minister rejects idea of Swiss-style arrangements to boost EU trade
By David Hughes, Amy Gibbons and Dominic McGrath, PA Political Staff
Ministers have insisted there is no question of tearing up the Brexit deal in the hope of securing a closer, Swiss-style relationship with Brussels.
A report that Rishi Sunakâs Government is considering putting the UK on the road to closer ties with the European Union has alarmed Brexiteers but Downing Street and senior ministers sought to play down the speculation.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it âcouldnât be further from the truthâ and insisted the âfundamental tenetsâ of the Brexit deal signed by Boris Johnson would not be renegotiated.
The Sunday Times reported âsenior government figuresâ were planning to put the UK on a path towards arrangements similar to Switzerlandâs to ensure access to the EUâs single market.
The model would involve more liberal EU migration â although full free movement would not be on the table â and payments to the Brussels budget, the newspaper reported.
But on Monday morning Mr Jenrick said there is âno question whatsoeverâ of the UK reopening the deal with the EU.
âWe have a settled position on our relationship with the European Union, thatâs the deal that was struck in 2019 and 2020 â and thatâs the one that we intend to stick to,â he told TalkTV.
âThat sets out the fundamental position that we donât want to see a return to free movement, we donât want to have the jurisdiction of European judges in the UK, and we donât want to be paying any money to the European Union.
âOf course there will be things on which we can improve our relationship â trade, security, migration are all key topics, and the Prime Minister wants to have the most productive relationship possible with our European friends and neighbours.
âBut thereâs no question whatsoever of us reopening the fundamental tenets of that deal.â
On Sky News, he added: âMoney, free movement, jurisdiction of European judges: these are really important things that were discussed at length within the Conservative Party, within the country, a few years ago.
âWe chose our position. I think itâs broadly the right one, because we did that for a reason.â
A Government spokesperson labelled the Sunday Times story âcategorically untrueâ.
The spokesperson said: âThis Government is focused on using our Brexit freedoms to create opportunities that drive growth and strengthen our economy.
âBrexit means we will never again have to accept a relationship with Europe that would see a return to freedom of movement, unnecessary payments to the European Union or jeopardise the full benefit of trade deals we are now able to strike around the world.â
Switzerland and the EU have a close economic relationship based on a series of bilateral agreements, giving the country direct access to parts of the EUâs internal market including the free movement of people.
The UK is locked in long-running talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit arrangement for the region designed to avoid a border on the island of Ireland.
Unionists have opposed the protocol as impeding trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, placing a border in the Irish Sea.
This has resulted in the collapse of the Stormont Assembly, with top civil servants left to run government departments.
However, there have been renewed hopes in recent weeks that a deal can be secured and the relationship improved between the UK and the EU after years of tensions.
A Swiss-style veterinary agreement has been one of the options mooted by some on the EU side as a solution to the protocol dispute.