Rishi Sunak will not pursue a post-Brexit “Swiss-style” deal to bring the UK closer to the EU, the Prime Minister has said today.
Sunak said he was “unequivocal on this” and that “under my leadership, the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws”.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that senior government officials wanted to negotiate a closer trading relationship with the EU, after the budgetary watchdog last week said the volume of UK trade will take a 15 per cent long-term hit thanks to Brexit.
Switzerland, while not a member of the EU, has frictionless trade with the bloc and is in its single market and is an effective rule taker in some areas.
This means that Switzerland has freedom of movement with EU countries for people, goods, capital and services.
Sunak told the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in Birmingham today that “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”.
“We need regulatory regimes that are fit for the future, that ensure this country can be leaders in those industries that create growth for the future and having those regulatory freedoms to do that is an important opportunity of Brexit,” Sunak said.
The reports that the government may look at a new Brexit deal with the EU sparked fury among Tory Brexiteers last night, with some pointing the figure at chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt, a moderate Remainer, told the BBC last week that he wanted to lift the “vast majority” of UK-EU trade barriers.
Sunak said during his CBI speech that “innovation … is the defining focus of my government” and that “the more we innovate, the more we’ll grow – and we have a plan for both”.
The Prime Minister said this included enticing more high-skill migrants in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to come to the UK.
“Because this isn’t just another new technology. It’s a general purpose technology, like the invention of the steam engine and the computer chip, with the potential to transform every aspect of our lives,” he said.
“So we cannot allow the world’s top AI talent to be drawn to America or China.”
The free market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank said “the government needs an agenda to remove barriers to innovation and growth”, while calling on Sunak to be “bold and radical”.