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UK minister denies reports Britain seeks closer ties with EU

November 20, 2022

The Sunday Times cited an unnamed minister as saying the government was seeking a Swiss-style relationship with the bloc. A government spokesperson said the report was "categorically untrue."

EU flag seen in front of Big Ben in London
The British government has denied reports that it is seeking closer ties with the EUImage: Niklas Halle'N/AFP/Getty Images

A British government minister on Sunday denied a report that said the country was seeking closer ties with the European Union.

The Sunday Times cited an unnamed minister as saying the government was seeking a Swiss-style relationship with the European Union, although without freedom of movement.

Switzerland has a free trade deal with the bloc and a number of other bilateral accords. Although it is not a member of the EU, it contributes to the bloc's budgets and its citizens are afforded free movement across EU territory.

Report 'categorically untrue'

A British government spokesperson said that the report was "categorically untrue."

"Brexit means we will never again have to accept a relationship with Europe that would see a return to freedom of movement, unnecessary payments to the European Union or jeopardize the full benefit of trade deals we are now able to strike around the world," the spokesperson said.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay told the Sky News broadcaster: "I don't recognize this story at all."

"I don't support that. I want to maximize the opportunities that Brexit offers," he said.

What were the consequences of the UK's withdrawal from the EU?

The UK held a referendum on leaving the bloc in 2016 and then achieved a withdrawal deal three years ago.

The Conservative Party ruled out a "soft" Brexit in negotiations with the EU, instead opting to leave the bloc's single market.

Britain's fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, said last week that leaving the EU has had "a significant adverse effect on UK trade."

Treasury Chief Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: "Unfettered trade with our neighbors is very beneficial to growth." He predicted that the "vast majority" of "trade barriers" would be lifted, although this process may take years.

Britain's withdrawal from the EU has also caused significant tension in Northern Ireland over an agreement that was established in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU member. The agreement, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, imposed checks on trade between the constituent country and the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since February when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) withdrew from a power-sharing arrangement. The DUP opposes checks on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

sdi/kb (AFP, AP, Reuters)