Rishi Sunak rules out 'Swiss-style' EU-UK trade deal

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Claims that UK government officials are planning for a Swiss-style deal with the EU have been rejected by prime minister Rishi Sunak.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has rejected claims that his government is looking to develop a 'Swiss-style' deal with the EU that would eliminate many of the post-Brexit barriers to cross-channel trade in exchange for alignment with Brussels' laws.

It follows reports at the weekend that some officials within his administration are pushing for such an arrangement. According to the Sunday Times, senior sources within the government believe that pursuing this type of relationship over the next decade will be essential in securing frictionless trade between the EU and the UK.

Official figures suggest there has been a significant decline in trade since the end of the transition period, with many British businesses citing increased red tape as a major barrier to imports and exports to and from Europe. 

Last week, chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt also suggested that the "vast majority" of these barriers can be removed.

However, Mr Sunak has dismissed reports that this meant taking a different approach to the hard Brexit favored by the Boris Johnson administration. 

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry conference, he said: "Let me be unequivocal about this. Under my leadership, the UK will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws."

He added: "I know that Brexit can deliver, and is already delivering, enormous benefits and opportunities for the country."

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it has a close relationship with the bloc, including access to the single market for many industries and freedom of movement for EU citizens. 

However, the arrangement does require regulatory alignment, which is something that is considered unacceptable to many Brexiters. What's more, there are no indications that the EU would be willing to consider such a deal, even if the UK government showed interest.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis also rejected the idea of any Swiss-style arrangement, although he added that over time, there is likely to be a "relaxation of relations" between the EU and UK as tensions between the two sides ease in the long term.