Rishi Sunak quashes talk of Swiss-style Brexit deal as he rules out move to align with EU rules

21 November 2022, 11:32 | Updated: 21 November 2022, 12:27

Rishi Sunak delivers speech at Confederation of Business Industry (CBI)
Rishi Sunak delivers speech at Confederation of Business Industry (CBI). Picture: Getty
Fran Way

By Fran Way

Rishi Sunak has ruled out any trade relationship with the European Union that relies on Britain aligning with EU laws.

Mr Sunak made the statement today at the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI).

It comes after reports at the weekend that he was seeking a 'swiss-style' deal with the EU.

Asked about the UK's relationship with the EU, Mr Sunak said: "Let me be unequivocal about this: under my leadership, the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws. 

"Now, I voted for Brexit. I believe in Brexit and I know that Brexit can deliver and is already delivering enormous benefits and opportunities for the country. 

"Migration being an immediate one where we have proper control of our borders."

Rishi Sunak addressing the CBI
Rishi Sunak addressing the CBI. Picture: Alamy
Rishi Sunak at the CBI
Rishi Sunak at the CBI. Picture: Alamy

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Mr Sunak pointed to having "proper control of our borders" when it comes to migration as one benefit, adding: "We weren't able to do that inside the European Union, at least now we are in control of it."

But his remarks came shortly after the boss of the CBI, Tony Danker, called on the government to be "practical" on the issue of immigration and use it to solve worker shortages in the UK.

Brexit stopped many foreign workers being able to easily work in the UK and companies are struggling to recruit - especially in industries such as hospitality which has relied heavily on European staff in recent years.

Mr Danker told the conference the UK's labour shortages were "vast", adding: "It's time to be honest - we don't have the people we need, nor do we have the productivity."

But Mr Sunak insisted the UK had "one of the world's most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly-skilled people", adding: "The country's number one priority right now when it comes to migration is tackling illegal migration."

A report in the Sunday Times claimed some in government were looking at pursuing a new deal with the EU similar to that of Switzerland to try and improve economic ties - especially after recent market turmoil that has damaged the British economy.

That agreement sees the Swiss have selected access to the single market and removes checks on many goods, but means they are part of the Schengen common travel area and pay into the bloc's coffers.

In his speech, Mr Sunak said leaving the bloc means "we can open up our country to the world's fastest-growing markets".

He also said the UK could now introduce "regulatory regimes that are fit for the future that ensure that this country can be leaders in those industries that are going to create the jobs and the growth of the future".

A recent poll from YouGov showed the public now think Britain was wrong to leave the EU by 56% to 32%, with one in five who voted for Brexit believing their decision was wrong.

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