A cabinet minister has warned he will not support a closer Swiss-style relationship with the European Union following reports the government is considering putting the UK on a path to that destination.
Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, instead suggested ministers should focus on maximizing what he said were Brexit opportunities.
Asked about reports that plans for smoother trade with Europe require moving to a Swiss model over the next decade, Mr Barclay said: “I don’t support that.”
He added that he did not “acknowledge” the reports.
He told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: ‘We have a prime minister who backed Brexit himself. I did that myself and I was Brexit secretary, and I worked very hard to maximize our control over our laws, our borders and our money.
“So it’s absolutely important, especially in these high-growth sectors, such as financial services, life sciences and green industries, that we really use the Brexit freedoms we have.
“So I don’t recognize that story at all.”
When asked if he could support a Swiss-style relationship, he replied: “Well, I didn’t support that. I want to maximize the opportunities that Brexit presents.”
But he admitted that since Brexit there have been “difficulties” with greater friction on trade. He said the matter should be discussed in circles.
“There are areas where there have been challenges in terms of increased friction and we are looking to work constructively with EU partners on this. But, also, there are very significant opportunities as a result of Brexit.
“I don’t think we would have rolled out the vaccine the way we did had we remained a member of the EU and the significant regulatory opportunities we have, and the fall statement signaled our determination grab them,” he said.