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Rishi Sunak rules out a Swiss-style trade deal with the EU

Rishi Sunak rules out a Swiss-style trade deal with the EU
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ruled out any Swiss-style deal to remove trade barriers with the EU as eurosceptic Conservative MPs claimed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was trying to water down Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Sunak insisted at the CBI conference in Birmingham that Johnson’s “basic” Brexit deal, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, could “deliver enormous benefits for the country.”

But some Conservative MPs believe Hunt, who backed Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum and wants to remove the “vast majority” of trade barriers between the UK and the EU, is pushing for a softer form of Brexit.

Downing Street said on Monday that Sunak would not approve a “Swiss-style deal” with the EU, excluding any alignment with EU rules and rejecting the free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union and any ” unnecessary payment” to Brussels.

The TCA removes quotas and tariffs from most trade, but leaves significant regulatory hurdles due to Britain’s exclusion from the single market. The independent Office for Fiscal Responsibility said last week that Brexit had caused a “significant adverse effect on trade”.

Hunt told the BBC last week that “unrestricted trade” with neighbors was “very beneficial for growth”, but declined to say how the government could break down such barriers when outside the single market.

“I have great confidence that in the coming years we will find, outside the single marketwe can remove the vast majority of trade barriers that exist between us and the EU,” he said.

Downing Street refused to echo Hunt’s call for the “vast majority” of barriers to UK-EU trade to be removed, acknowledging that the EU had made it clear that Britain would pay a price for the “Hard” Brexit negotiated by Johnson.

Downing Street rejected a Sunday Times report that the UK was considering a Swiss-style trade relationship with the EU, saying instead that regulatory freedom was a major Brexit opportunity.

Sunak He said: “Let me be unequivocal. Under my leadership, the UK will not seek any relationship with Europe that is based on alignment with EU rules. I voted for Brexit. I believe in Brexit. Brexit can bring huge benefits and opportunities for the country.”

Pro-Brexit MPs were partly reassured by Downing Street’s insistence that it would not seek a Swiss-style deal, but many suspect Hunt will try to push the government’s policy towards a softer Brexit.

A former cabinet minister said: “Rishi was a supporter of Leave, which gives him a lot of credibility. But there is less confidence in Jeremy’s Brexit credentials. Apparently his instincts always point towards a closer alignment with the EU”.

David Davis, former Brexit secretary, said: “The general direction of the journey will be towards an easing of relations between the UK and the EU, which is long overdue given the recent tensions. But the UK will never be in a Swiss-style deal with the EU.”

A senior Tory MP said: “There is concern among Brexiteers that the establishment has now regained control. I and many others have never considered Rishi a true Brexiteer. The fact that our chancellor is a Remainer is also cause for concern.”

Another leading member of the Eurosceptic European Research Group said: “The chancellor and Sunak clearly have different views on the EU and Brexit, but the prime minister seems to be asserting himself on the issue.”

Hunt’s allies say the chancellor is committed to exploiting the opportunities provided by Johnson’s Brexit deal, without seeking a new model, while both Treasury and Number 10 have denied any difference in approach on the issue.

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