British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday denied any attempt by his government to back down from the UK’s exit deal with the European Union, despite Brexit unrest in the country.
Life outside the EU ‘really offers huge benefits and opportunities’, Brexit advocate Sunak told the Business Confederation’s annual conference in Birmingham, speaking of increased restrictions on immigration – a key element of the Brexit deal – and closer trade ties with Asia.
He added: “Let me be frank: under my leadership, the UK will not seek any relationship with Europe that depends on compatibility with the laws of the European Union,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The UK left the European Union for good in January 2021 after years of political wrangling since a controversial 2016 referendum to leave the bloc.
With Brexit, the UK withdrew from the European single market and customs union and ended the freedom of movement between member states and the jurisdiction of the European courts.
But the agreement between London and Brussels has in largely maintained duty-free trade with the remaining 27 members.
Sunak’s comments follow a Sunday Times report that “top government figures” were planning to “put Britain on the path to a relationship in Swiss style” with the EU.
Switzerland has much closer ties to the bloc through bilateral agreements that allow for access to the single market, a high degree of freedom of movement and a financial contribution to the EU budget.
The report, and comments from Remain voter Jeremy Hunt, who said last week he wanted to remove the “vast majority” of trade barriers with the EU, have unions skeptical members of the ruling Conservative Party worried. .
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith told The Sun newspaper: “The government should focus on what it needs to do, rather than trying to reopen a debate we have closed on Europe.”
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