Sunday, November 27, 2022

Tory Brexiteers warn Rishi Sunak against ‘Swiss-style’ deal with EU

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The government on Sunday hit back at claims Britain could seek a closer “Swiss-style” deal with the European Union, insisting the prime minister’s focus was on Brexit freedoms

Brexit advocates have warned Rishi Sunak that there can be no government attempts to secure a Swiss-style Brexit deal, branding it a “massive surrender of our sovereignty”.

No. 10 wants closer trade ties with the EU to boost the economy. Reports surfaced over the weekend that Downing Street would like to repeat the deal Switzerland made with the bloc.

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

“Free and unregulated trade with the EU has always been desirable, but the problem is that it would come at far too high a price,” said an ERG member I.

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

The MP added: “Actually, this is the Theresa May deal rejected under a different name. My fear is that we will no longer be able to negotiate our own trade agreements, and Switzerland is also paying huge sums to the EU for its market access, so-called cohesion payments.”

The government’s former Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, tweeted his displeasure at the plans, warning: “I hope the government thinks better about these plans soon”.

Simon Clarke, the former Secretary of State and Chief Secretary of the Treasury, echoed his comments, saying: “I very much hope and believe that this will not be considered. In 2019, we settled the question of the final exit from the European Union.”

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UKIP and Brexit party, said: “That level of treachery will never be forgiven.”

Even Tory MPs who voted for Remain rejected the idea, with former Works and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith insisting that seeking a new Swiss-style regime was not a “wise move” for the government.

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

Tory backbencher David Morris, who sits in the UK-EU Parliamentary Partnership Assembly, said I that there are “better conditions to agree” than a new Swiss-style deal. “That’s how we do it. Divorce is entering the civil phase, so a more pragmatic attitude is emerging [from Brussels].”

The government on Sunday hit back at claims Britain could seek a closer “Swiss-style” deal with the European Union, insisting Mr Sunak’s focus was on Brexit freedoms.

No. 10 is trying to forge closer ties with Brussels to boost growth but has categorically dismissed reports that a “Swiss-style” model is 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 hinted that “unrestricted” trade deals with the EU would boost economic growth, sparking debate over whether the UK would need to participate in elements of the single market to do so.

But amid Brexiteers’ fears that such a move would come with compromises on British sovereignty, the government insisted it was focusing on “Brexit freedoms” and not seeking a “Swiss-style” deal.

On the weekend, I Treasury sources reported that the UK could boost growth by lowering UK-EU trade barriers, but without going so far as to align with the bloc’s rules.

According to sources, one way would be to solve the ongoing deadlock on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Some argue that this could be facilitated by Swiss-style agreements, such as veterinary standards, to facilitate trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.

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

It would have harked back to the deal agreed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson just a few years earlier and would have reignited debates about the role of the EU institutions in a post-Brexit Britain.

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

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