Leavers have been left raging amid reports that Rishi Sunak’s Government is considering turning towards a Swiss-style relationship with the European Union. Senior figures in Whitehall hope pursuing a closer relationship with Brussels will help bring back frictionless trade between the UK and the continent, the Sunday Times has revealed. However, they claim this would not include a return to freedom of movement.
A source told the broadsheet: “It’s obviously something the EU would never offer us upfront because they would say you are trying to have your cake and eat it but the reason I think we will get it is because it is overwhelmingly in the businesses interests on both sides.”
Another insider said: “I think we will be doing everything we can proactively within our power to make changes to improve things when it comes to the EU.”
The report comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU back in 2016, indicated the Government would look to eradicate some of the trade barriers created by Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
However, Mr Hunt rejected the prospect of rejoining the single market and even vowed to use Britain’s “Brexit freedoms” in his autumn statement.
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The so-called Swiss model would see more liberal EU migration, payments into the bloc’s budget and potentially greater oversight from the European Court of Justice.
Such positions are considered red lines for the Tory Party’s hardline Brexit-backing European Research Group, with one rebel suggesting it was comparable to Theresa May’s 2018 Chequers deal.
Ex-ERG director Chris Howarth said: “Worst of all worlds. No influence and all the rule taking for little in return.”
Former Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke also slammed the proposal.
He wrote on Twitter: “I very much hope and believe this isn’t something under consideration. We settled the question of leaving the European Union, definitively, in 2019.”
GB News host and ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage even went as far as to call the potential move a “sellout” as he said the “Tories must be crushed”.
The former Brexit Party MEP added: “This level of betrayal will never be forgiven.”
Lord David Frost, who helped Mr Johnson negotiate the UK-EU Brexit deal, also warned: “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.”
However, a Number 10 source told the Times that the Prime Minister was still “taking the fight” to Brussels.
Mr Sunak, who campaigned for Brexit, is reportedly “not going to be giving up stuff that he and the party would not be happy with him giving up”.