No Brexit backslide: Tories warn Prime Minister and Chancellor against forging closer ties with the EU after rumours of Swiss-style deal
- The Government is reportedly seeking a ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with the EU
- Chancellor Jeremy hunt admitted last week Brexit has led to trade barriers
- A former cabinet minister has warned against seeking closer ties with Europe
- Nadine Dorries says voters need stability and a guarantee that Brexit is ‘safe’
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt were last night warned against seeking closer ties with the EU.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor reportedly want to put the UK on the path to a ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with Brussels to boost trade.
But former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries said voters needed stability and a guarantee that Brexit was ‘safe’. Treasury sources insisted a new EU deal was not being discussed or considered.
Mr Hunt admitted last week however that Brexit had led to trade barriers.
Asked whether rejoining the single market would boost growth, the Chancellor replied: ‘Having unfettered trade with our neighbours and countries all over the world is very beneficial to growth. I have great confidence that over the years ahead we will find outside the single market we are able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU.’
The prospect of a Swiss-style deal has alarmed Tories, who fear it will cost them Leave-backing voters at the next election.
It is reported that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt want to put the UK on a path to ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with the EU
Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries has warned the Prime Minister he must convince voters that Brexit is ‘safe’
Mrs Dorries said: ‘I’d like to see a more robust rebuttal from No 10. They need to reassure people that Brexit is safe, that the question of recommencing payments to the EU is absurd.
‘There can be no room for misinformation when what the country craves most right now is stability.’
Brexiteers also fear that the Government is preparing to make concessions to Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol, possibly giving the European Court of Justice a role in resolving trade disputes.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Government sources want to move over the next decade to a relationship with the EU similar to that enjoyed by Switzerland.
While not a member of the bloc, Switzerland has access to the single market and is part of the visa-free Schengen zone. Switzerland also makes billion-pound ‘cohesion’ payments to Brussels and allows the freedom of movement.
Asked about the reports, Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky News: ‘We’ve got a Prime Minister who himself supported Brexit. I myself did and was Brexit Secretary, and worked very hard to maximise our control of our laws, our borders and our money.
‘So, it’s absolutely important, particularly in those high-growth sectors, such as financial services, life sciences and the green industries, that we really use the Brexit freedoms we have. So, I don’t recognise this story at all.’
Asked if he could support a Swiss-style relationship with the EU, he answered: ‘Well, I didn’t support that. I want to maximise the opportunities that Brexit offers.’
Former work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith told Times Radio: ‘I don’t think that would be a particularly wise path at this time.’
Trying to squash the story, a Government spokesman said: ‘These reports are categorically untrue. This Government is focused on using our Brexit freedoms to create opportunities that drive growth and strengthen our economy.
‘Brexit 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.’
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage claimed there would be a ‘sellout’: ‘This level of betrayal will never be forgiven. The Tories must be crushed. Rishi Sunak is a Goldman Sachs globalist, so this sellout of Brexit is not surprising.’
Lord Cruddas, a £3million Tory party donor, warned: ‘I am ready to mobilise the Vote Leave team to stop it. We are ready to fight for the Brexit the electorate voted for.’
And backbencher Marco Longhi predicted it would lead to fresh turmoil within a party that had already had two leadership elections this year: ‘If this is remotely true, the last few months will feel like a walk in the park compared with what might be ahead.’
Appearing on Sky News today, cabinet minister Steve Barclay said he didn’t ‘recognise this story at all’
Something similar to a Swiss-style deal had been proposed by Theresa May in 2018, retaining access to the single market while ending free movement. But that prompted ministerial resignations and was rejected by the EU as ‘cherry-picking’.
Former Brexit special adviser Raoul Ruparel wrote: ‘Worth remembering Theresa May essentially expended her remaining political capital on something which was unlikely to ever be negotiable or supported by Tory MPs.’
However, a Northern Ireland MP said there needed to be at least one Swiss-style agreement to limit checks on foods crossing the Irish Sea.
Stephen Farry of the Alliance party said: ‘The closer UK is aligned to EU, then the better for UK businesses and others in general, and specifically for easing the need for NI Protocol-related checks. Start with a Swiss-style UK-EU veterinary deal.’
And Tory peer Lord Price, a former boss of Waitrose, told the BBC: ‘I’ve always felt that if we weren’t going to rejoin the EU or become a member of the EEA, which means that we would have to adopt again all the EU legislation, the Swiss model was the right way for us to go forward.’
He said Britain had to stop being a ‘noisy neighbour’ and start compromising with the EU, our biggest trading partner.
‘My view is we will move pragmatically forward when the puritans on either side calm down and we’re able to again form a good relationship with the EU.’
Mrs Dorries said the story seemed to be ‘a leak with origins in the Treasury – either from officials or Hunt himself, which is totally unacceptable’.
She added: ‘The work on the Boris deal and the Northern Ireland Protocol is progressing and that should be the only issue under discussion. Rumours like this are a deliberate distraction.’
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