Brexiteer Tory MPs demand Jeremy Hunt personally deny wanting ‘Swiss-style’ EU economic deal

Brexiteer Tory MPs demand Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt personally deny claims they want a ‘Swiss-style’ economic deal with the EU – as ministers insist there is ‘no question whatsoever’ of closer ties

  • No10 has denied reports it is seeking a ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with the EU
  • Chancellor Jeremy Hunt admitted last week Brexit has led to trade barriers 
  • Sir Ian Duncan Smith: ‘The Chancellor needs to himself slap this story down’

Furious Tory Brexiteers demanded Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt personally deny claims that they want to move the UK politically and economically closer to 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.

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.

No10 and ministers have denied there are any such plans since the story first emerged in the Sunday Times, albeit without any freedom of movement involved.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was the latest this morning when he said there was ‘no question whatsoever’ of the UK reopening the ‘fundamental tenets’ of its deal with the EU.

But backbenchers are demanding the same denials from the PM – a Brexiteer in 2016 and the Chancellor, who backed Remain. 

Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Sun: ‘The Chancellor needs to himself slap this story down.

‘This should never have got going and if he meant it or not, he needs to make it clear this is not what the government is about.’

And 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.

It is reported that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt want to put the UK on a path to 'Swiss-style' relationship with the EU

It is reported that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt want to put the UK on a path to ‘Swiss-style’ relationship with the EU

Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Sun: 'The Chancellor needs to himself slap this story down. This should never have got going and if he meant it or not, he needs to make it clear this is not what the government is about.'

Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Sun: ‘The Chancellor needs to himself slap this story down. This should never have got going and if he meant it or not, he needs to make it clear this is not what the government is about.’

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries has warned the Prime Minister he must convince voters that Brexit is 'safe'

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries has warned the Prime Minister he must convince voters that Brexit is ‘safe’

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. 

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.’

Mr Jenrick said it ‘couldn’t be further than the truth’ that Rishi Sunak’s Government is considering putting the UK on the road to a Swiss-style relationship with the union.

‘We have a settled position on our relationship with the European Union, that’s the deal that was struck in 2019 and 2020 – and that’s the one that we intend to stick to,’ he told TalkTV.

‘That sets out the fundamental position that we don’t want to see a return to free movement, we don’t want to have the jurisdiction of European judges in the UK, and we don’t want to be paying any money to the European Union.

‘Of course there will be things on which we can improve our relationship – trade, security, migration are all key topics, and the Prime Minister wants to have the most productive relationship possible with our European friends and neighbours.

‘But there’s no question whatsoever of us reopening the fundamental tenets of that deal.’

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.

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.’

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was the latest this morning when he said there was 'no question whatsoever' of the UK reopening the 'fundamental tenets' of its deal with the EU.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was the latest this morning when he said there was ‘no question whatsoever’ of the UK reopening the ‘fundamental tenets’ of its deal with the EU.

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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