No 10 seeks to allay fears of hardline Brexiteers over reports of a Swiss-style EU deal | Brexit

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Rishi Sunak faces a fresh two-pronged Brexit row as he seeks to stifle backlash from hardline eurosceptics amid suggestions the UK may seek a Swiss-style deal with Brussels, while businesses should call for more “convenient” immigration. position.

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s address to business leaders in Birmingham on Monday morning, Downing Street tried to quell speculation that a deal similar to Theresa May’s ‘Chequers’ plan could pass, saying it was ‘categorically false’ .

The effects of Brexit have received renewed attention, as the UK is the only G7 country still lagging behind pre-pandemic growth levels, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt , recently suggested that removing trade barriers would boost growth.

According to The Sunday Times, senior government officials are reviewing a Brexit trade deal proposed by the EU last year, which would remove 80% of controls between Britain and Northern Ireland and open access to the single market.

But the move would force the UK to commit to aligning, at least temporarily, with food and farming standards. That would be anathema to the champions of a hard Brexit, including Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, as well as MPs from the hardline European Research Group.

They view any alignment as subjection of scrutiny to Brussels, and even though ministers including Michael Gove have repeatedly said in the past that the UK will maintain food and farming standards equal to or better than those of the EU , any formal agreement would be considered a partial cancellation of Lord Frost’s trade agreement.

EU Brexit negotiator Maroš Šefčovič offered the Swiss a trade deal last June, but it was rejected by Frost. The move is reportedly being considered by some in government, particularly as Sunak seeks to avoid a trade war with the EU and secure a Northern Ireland Protocol deal.

Raoul Ruparel, a former Brexit adviser to May, said a Swiss-style deal without freedom of movement was tantamount to his ill-fated deal with Checkers. “We tried this a lot,” he tweeted, adding that it was “unlikely to ever be negotiable or backed by Tory MPs.”

Steve Barclay, Health Secretary and last Brexit Secretary before the post was cut when the UK left the EU in January 2020, told Sky News on Sunday: ‘I don’t recognize this story at all.

He said he was not in favor of a Swiss-style relationship with the EU when it was first announced, and added: “I want to maximize the opportunities that Brexit presents.”

Other senior Tories have sought to denigrate the suggestion, including Trade Secretary Maria Caulfield, who called the report “fake news”. Frost added that if the claims were correct, he hoped “the government would think better about these plans, quickly.”

Former Brexit party leader Nigel Farage has said he could return to frontline politics in response to a potential “Brexit betrayal”.

“I’m not ruling anything out,” he told The Sun.

A government spokesman said it was ‘categorically wrong’ that the UK was lining up to seek a Swiss-style deal with the EU and said there would be no going back to the freedom of movement, restrictions on concluding business agreements outside the EU or “unnecessary payments”. ” in Brussels.

It has been suggested the briefing may have been designed to test how well the ERG would withstand a closer relationship with the EU in the difficult economic environment the UK has found itself in.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, told Sky News that Labor “is not proposing to return to the single market or the customs union or anything like that”.

“But we want to negotiate a bespoke deal for the UK, so our businesses can export, so we can get those deals on agriculture, so we can work together on security issues,” he said. -he declares.

After Hunt’s autumn statement on Thursday, Tony Danker, the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said there had been few details on boosting growth and productivity in the UK -United.

In his speech to the CBI conference on Monday, Danker is expected to urge Sunak to remove ‘barriers’ to growth by taking a more ‘practical’ stance on immigration and reaching a deal with the EU to reform the immigration protocol. ‘North Ireland.

“Let’s have economic migration to areas where we’re not going to attract people and skills to our country anytime soon. In return, let’s return those fixed-term visas,” he will say.

theguardian

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