Tory Brexiteers warn Rishi Sunak over Swiss-style deal with EU


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inews.co.uk

Brexiteers have warned Rishi Sunak there can be no attempts by the Government to strike a Swiss-style Brexit deal, branding it a “massive surrender of our sovereignty”.

No 10 is looking to foster closer trade ties with the EU in an effort to boost the economy, with reports emerging over the weekend that Downing Street would like to replicate the deal Switzerland holds with the bloc.

But Tory Brexiteers have reacted furiously to the suggestion, warning it could prevent the UK from striking its own trade deals and see a return of greater immigration.

“Free and unregulated trade with the EU was always desirable but the problem is it would come at far too high a price,” one ERG member told i.

“It would be a massive surrender of our sovereignty which would undermine the whole point of Brexit and make the UK a vassal of the EU with no say in the rules we were forced to adopt.”

The MP added: “Effectively, this is the rejected Theresa May deal by a different name. My fear is we would no longer be able to negotiate our own trade deals, and also Switzerland pays huge sums into the EU for its market access, so-called cohesion payments.”

The Government’s former Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, voiced his displeasure at the plans on Twitter, warning, “I hope the Government thinks better of these plans, fast”.

Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary and chief secretary to the Treasury, echoed his comments, stating: “I very much hope and believe this isn’t something under consideration. We settled the question of leaving the European Union, definitively, in 2019.”

Nigel Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader, said: “This level of betrayal will never be forgiven.”

Even Tory MPs who voted for Remain dismissed the idea, with former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith insisting that seeking a new Swiss-style arrangement would not be a “wise path” for the Government.

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

“I think that the Government has actually responded already this morning to those particular ideas, and I don’t believe that’s one that’s been taken forward.”

Tory backbencher David Morris, who sits on the UK/EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly, told i that there are “better terms to be agreed” than a new Swiss-style deal. “It’s how we do it. The divorce is entering the civil stage so there’s a more pragmatic stance starting to emerge [from Brussels].”

The Government on Sunday hit back at claims the UK could pursue a closer “Swiss-style” deal with the European Union, insisting Mr Sunak was focused on Brexit freedoms.

No 10 is trying to foster closer ties with Brussels in a bid to boost growth but categorically denied reports that a “Swiss-style” model was an option.

Switzerland has access to the European single market but allows free movement of people and pays into the EU budget.

Last week, Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, suggested that “unfettered” trade deals with the EU would boost economic growth, sparking debate as to whether this would require the UK to participate in elements of the single market.

But amid Brexiteer fears that such a move would come with trade-offs around UK sovereignty, the Government insisted it was focused on “Brexit freedoms” and was not pursuing a “Swiss-style” agreement.

At the weekend, i reported that Treasury sources believed the UK could boost growth by reducing trade barriers between the UK and EU but without going so far as to align with the bloc’s rules.

One way of doing so, sources said, would be to resolve the ongoing deadlock over Northern Ireland Protocol.

Some argue this could be eased using the Swiss-style arrangements around, for example, veterinary standards to smooth trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Following reports in The Sunday Times that Government sources believed the Swiss model could apply to other aspects of the deal, there were concerns on the Tory benches that the Prime Minister could compromise on the UK’s independence from the EU.

It would have gone back on the deal agreed by former PM Boris Johnson just a few years’ earlier and reopened debates about the role of EU institutions in a post-Brexit Britain.

Sources in Downing Street and the Treasury claimed no such deal was being discussed, or considered, and Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, said he would not support it.

The Sunday Times had suggested that insiders believed the UK would have to adopt a closer relationship with the EU in order to achieve frictionless trade – although this would not include a return to freedom of movement.

The Financial Times said a comparison to the Swiss model has been made in senior Government circles, but ministers intend to follow a different path.

Mr Barclay, a former Brexit secretary, said that he was not aware of any such plan to adopt a “Swiss-style” model.

What is a Swiss-style deal?

Switzerland’s relationship with the European Union is economically and socially close despite the fact it is not a member of the bloc.

It is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and was one of the EU’s largest trading partners in 2020 – alongside the UK, China and the US.

The relationship between the EU and Switzerland is based on a series of bilateral deals which gives the country selective access to the single market.

These include the mutual recognition of product standards, deals around transport, science, and veterinary and agricultural agreements.

Crucially, Switzerland is part of the freedom of movement agreement which allows EU citizens to travel, live and work within member states unrestricted – something Brexit-supporters are ardently against.

As a result of the movement of people, the deal also involved shared intelligence, security and justice.

The reason elements of a Swiss deal have been touted as a possible option in the UK is because removing the need for checks on animal produc…

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