A government minister has slapped down claims that the government is considering a Swiss-style relationship with the EU.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said there is “no question whatsoever” of the UK reopening the “fundamental tenets” of its deal with the EU.
He went on to say 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.
It follows a story in the Sunday Times that suggested ministers are eyeing up a closer relationship with Brussels.
“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,” Jenrick 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.”
Newspaper reports said the move could take place over the next decade in a bid to avoid the current barriers to trade.
Such a move would infuriate backbench Tory Brexiteers just a few years after Boris Johnson secured a deal with the EU.
Downing Street sources rejected the report but the ST suggested that behind closed doors some had indicated that a frictionless trading relationship required a Swiss-style arrangement.
This would not extend to a return to freedom of movement, according to the paper.
Jenrick insisted that the UK has “no intention” of restarting payments to the EU to bolster the trade deal.
“We’ve no intention of doing that,” he told Sky News. “Money, free movement, jurisdiction of European judges: these are really important things that were discussed at length within the Conservative Party, within the country, a few years ago.
“We chose our position. I think it’s broadly the right one, because we did that for a reason.”
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.
The UK is locked in long-running talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit arrangement for the region designed to avoid a border on the island of Ireland.
Unionists have opposed the protocol as impeding trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, placing a border in the Irish Sea.
This has resulted in the collapse of the Stormont Assembly, with top civil servants left to run government departments.
However, there have been renewed hopes in recent weeks that a deal can be secured and the relationship improved between the UK and the EU after years of tensions.
A Swiss-style veterinary agreement has been one of the options mooted by some on the EU side as a solution to the protocol dispute.
In the years after EU referendum, a so-called Swiss-style deal was one of many options for the UK after it voted to leave the bloc.