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UK minister does not recognise report government wants Swiss-style ties with EU

therese coffey walks outside number 10 downing street in london
UK minister Steve Barclay

British health minister Steve Barclay said on Sunday he does not recognise a report that the government wants to move towards a Swiss-style relationship with the European Union.

Under new prime minister Rishi Sunak, the government will look to pursue frictionless trade with the EU in a deal modelled on Switzerland’s relationship with the bloc although this would not involve a return to freedom of movement, the Sunday Times said.

“I don’t recongnise this story at all,” Barclay told Sky News. “I don’t support that. I want to maximise the opportunities that Brexit offers.”

Switzerland has negotiated access to the European single market, but in return has to accept conditions including allowing freedom movement of workers from EU countries and payments into the bloc’s budget.

Simon Clarke, a former minister, was among those to criticise any suggestion that Britain could pursue a Swiss-style deal.

“I very much hope and believe this isn’t something under consideration,” he said on Twitter. “We settled the question of leaving the European Union, definitively, in 2019.”

Britain is currently locked in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol, the part of the Brexit deal that mandated checks on some goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom due to the province’s open land border with EU member Ireland.

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