Government 'considering a Swiss-style relationship with the EU'

Senior Government figures are ‘considering putting the UK on the road to a Swiss-style relationship with the EU which avoids current trade barriers’

  • Reports suggest the government is considering a Swiss approach to help trade
  • But Tory Brexiteers are fuming and say it would be a ‘betrayal’ of Brexit freedoms
  • The Chancellor said the single market and freedom of movement is off the table 
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg said such a Swiss-style deal would be ‘Brexit in name only’ 

The UK could be headed for a ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with the EU within the next decade after it was reported senior figures in Rishi Sunak’s government are considering adopting a similar attitude which removes barriers to trade. 

Brexiteer Tory MPs last night reacted with fury to the reports and said it could amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the freedoms they say were won following the referendum result in 2016, adding the Conservative Party ‘wouldn’t wear it’.

Former Cabinet Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Conservatives are a ‘Brexit party’ and would risk becoming a ‘non-Brexit party’ if it agreed to ‘unfettered’ trade with the EU.

Downing Street sources rejected the report but the Times suggested that behind closed doors some in Government have indicated the pursuit of a frictionless trading relationship requires moving to a Swiss-style arrangement over the next 10 years. 

The plan, designed to foster closer economic ties with the bloc, would represent a major break with the approach adopted by Boris Johnson. 

It comes as the UK remains in deadlock talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol. 

Senior figures in Rishi Sunak’s government are said to be considering a Swiss-style deal – a report the government does not recognise

Former Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘This would be Brexit in name only – it would basically take the teeth out of Brexit and does not even replace it with dentures’

The plan, designed to foster closer economic ties with the bloc, would represent a major break with the approach adopted by Boris Johnson

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 EU’s internal market including the free movement of people. 

However, Government sources insisted that freedom of movement and entry to the single market would be off the table.

Any deals between the UK and Brussels would have to benefit both sides as equals and would take many years to strike, they said, adding that they didn’t recognise the Swiss model as a template.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has already alarmed Brexiteers after he said he was seeking ‘unfettered trade’ with the EU, although he cautioned that this must be outside the single market.

Tory Brexit campaigners reacted angrily to the report about a Swiss-style model in the Sunday Times, with one telling The Mail on Sunday: ‘It didn’t take long for the mask to slip. 

‘This is a total betrayal. The ERG [European Research Group of eurosceptic Tory MPs] must fight this tooth and nail.’

Former Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘This would be Brexit in name only – it would basically take the teeth out of Brexit and does not even replace it with dentures.

‘If we did this, all the benefits of regulatory divergence would be lost. There would be no point trying to do trade deals around the world because we would have no regulatory flexibility and we would have no say over the rules.

‘The Conservative Party is a Brexit party and it cannot become a non-Brexit party.’

Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘The party wouldn’t wear this. If you’ve fought an Election to get out of the EU, you’ve won an 80-seat majority and you’ve won a referendum on it, there is no chance that this would be acceptable.

‘If the Government tried to do this the party would split both within the House of Commons and the country. It’s pure madness. Having said that, I’ve not heard a single person suggest it.’

Former Brexit Minister David Jones condemned the plan as ‘100 per cent anathema to Brexit’.

Mr Jones added: ‘The fact is that Switzerland is involved in perpetual negotiations with the EU on every facet of market rules. We simply cannot accept that here.’

Switzerland has access to the European single market, a deal on freedom of movement of people, and makes payments to the EU budget.

This was also an approach that Mr Johnson and Lord Frost, his chief Brexit negotiator, ruled out when they drew up the UK’s negotiating mandate in 2020.

Lord Frost told the Sunday Times: ‘Any approach requiring the UK to align with EU rules to get trade benefits, whether as part of a Swiss-style approach or any other, would be quite unacceptable.

‘Boris Johnson and I fought very hard to avoid any such requirements in 2020 and ensure the UK could set its own laws, and we should not contemplate giving this away in future.’

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has signalled that Rishi Sunak’s administration intends to break from the approach adopted by Mr Johnson and remove the vast majority of trade barriers with the bloc.

In private, senior government sources have suggested that pursuing frictionless trade requires moving towards a Swiss-style relationship, the paper reported.

‘I think having unfettered trade with our neighbours and countries all over the world is very beneficial to growth,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘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. It will take time.’

His comments caused alarm among members of the European Research Group (ERG) who led the battle for Brexit.

The group also fears that the government is preparing to give ground to Brussels to resolve the disagreement over the Northern Ireland protocol.

A Downing Street source told the paper that Mr Sunak was ‘taking the fight’ to the EU but was also hopeful that a more constructive approach on both sides could bear fruit.

‘Rishi wants to get this sorted as quickly as possible; there’s definitely a deal to be done,’ a No 10 source said.

‘It’s our team’s sense that there is much more of a landing zone, in terms of what we would be happy with, than there has ever been.’

But they added: ‘He’s taking the fight to them. He’s not going to be giving up stuff that he and the party would not be happy with him giving up.’

No.10 declined to comment on the reports when contacted by MailOnline. 

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