Blog: Brexit deal’s ‘fundamental tenets’ will not be reopened, says immigration minister – UK politics live – The Guardian

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Jenrick says ‘fundamental tenets’ of Brexit deal will not be reopened

In his interviews this morning Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, also ruled out pushing for a Swiss-style deal with the EU. Echoing the firm denial issued by No 10 yesterday, after the Sunday Times story was published (there was no denial ahead of publication), Jenrick told TalkTV:

We have a settled position on our relationship with the European Union, that’s the deal that was struck in 2019 and 2020 – and that’s the one that we intend to stick to.

That sets out the fundamental position that we don’t want to see a return to free movement, we don’t want to have the jurisdiction of European judges in the UK, and we don’t want to be paying any money to the European Union.

Of course there will be things on which we can improve our relationship – trade, security, migration are all key topics, and the prime minister wants to have the most productive relationship possible with our European friends and neighbours.

But there’s no question whatsoever of us reopening the fundamental tenets of that deal.

And he told Sky News:

Money, free movement, jurisdiction of European judges: these are really important things that were discussed at length within the Conservative party, within the country, a few years ago.

We chose our position. I think it’s broadly the right one, because we did that for a reason.

Does that mean the Sunday Times just got it wrong? No. The report seems to have been inspired by an interview that Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, gave to the Today programme on Friday. He said that the government wanted “unfettered trade” with the EU (a phrase used by Theresa May when she was negotiating her own Brexit deal, which was closer to the Swiss version than Boris Johnson’s) and he said that he was confident that “over the years ahead we will find outside the single market we are able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU”. (Johnson himself denied that his deal did put up non-tariff trade barriers, even though it obviously did.)

Caroline Wheeler, the Sunday Times political editor, and one of the authors of the story, has defended her report.

Here is the key extract from the Sunday Times story citing senior government sources.

In private, senior government sources have suggested that pursuing frictionless trade requires moving towards a Swiss-style relationship over the next decade. However, they insist this would not extend to a return to freedom of movement.

“It’s obviously something the EU would never offer us upfront because they would say you are trying to have your cake and eat it but the reason I think we will get it is because it is overwhelmingly in the businesses interests on both sides,” one said …

Ministers are confident that the EU’s approach to relations with the UK is thawing as the continent faces the challenges caused by soaring inflation and the conflict in Ukraine.

“I think we will be doing everything we can proactively within our power to make changes to improve things when it comes to the EU,” one source said.

“The bigger picture on this is the EU seeing something which they weren’t expecting, which is massive support for European security from the UK with respect to Ukraine and they can see we are serious about being sensible grownups with the biggest military in Europe doing our bit.

“I think there is a very good way through this with more trust that we were ever going to have with either Boris Johnson or Liz Truss.”

Take out the reference to Switzerland, and there is not such a big gap between what this source is suggesting, and what Jenrick is saying.

In a good analysis of the story, Eleni Courea in her London Playbook briefing for Politico says that report echoes Hunt’s thinking, but that it is not yet clear whether Sunak thinks the same way.

We may get some clues when he addresses the CBI within the hour.

UK will not ease immigration barriers to plug skills shortages, Jenrick says

Tony Danker, the CBI director general, may not be asking for a Swiss-style Brexit deal, but he does want more immigration. In his interview on the Today programme, he said the government should expand the shortage occupation list – the list of jobs for which foreigners can easily get work visas, because employers cannot find Britons to fill them. He told Today:

When you look at the OBR report on Thursday, they said the only thing that’s really moved the needle on growth is by allowing in a bit more immigration.

The reason why it’s so important is we have literally over a million vacancies in this country, we have 600,000 people who are now long-term unwell, who aren’t coming back to the labour market any time soon.

That’s why we have to get this shortage occupation list – the list of people that we’re really missing that we aren’t going to get in Britain any time soon – and we have to get them to plug the gap while we re-calibrate the labour market in the medium term.

I’m afraid it’s one of those levers that does help you grow, doesn’t cost money, but I recognise it’s a tough political choice for Conservative politicians.

But Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister who was doing the morning interview round for No 10, said the government did not agree. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, Jenrick said the government was still committed to reducing net migration.

CBI chief Tony Danker joins Tory Brexiters in saying government should not seek Swiss-style Brexit deal

Good morning. Rishi Sunak is addressing the CBI conference this morning, where it is normal for prime ministers to take questions after they have delivered their speech. Sunak is likely to be asked about yesterday’s report in the Sunday Times that started with the intro:

Senior government figures are planning to put Britain on the path towards a Swiss-style relationship with the European Union.

The report is now being denied, but you might have assumed that it would have gone down well with the CBI, which was strongly opposed to Brexit in 2016 and which continues to argue that the way Brexit has been implemented is harmful to business. But even the CBI isn’t calling for a Swiss-style Brexit deal. Tony Danker, the CBI director general, has joined the many Tory Brexiters who reacted with alarm to yesterday’s story in saying that the government should not be aiming for a Swiss-style deal. He told the Today programme this morning:

I’m a bit puzzled about the whole Swiss thing. It took them about 40 years to get to the Swiss arrangement. Currently, we’re not even implementing Boris’s deal. Let’s implement Boris’s Brexit deal, that still has some growth in it, by the way, that’s all come to a freeze, and let’s forget the discussion about Switzerland for now.

Asked if a Swiss-style Brexit deal would be a betrayal of Brexit, Danker replied:

All I want to do is implement Boris’s deal. Currently we’re not implementing Boris’s deal. We’ve got we’ve got an impasse because of the Northern Ireland protocol. There’s lots of freezing of our science relationships, of our recognition of our qualifications, of easier travel across Europe. Those things will give us some growth. But it needs the Europeans and the British government to get round the table and solve the protocol.

There’s a landing zone there. If we fulfil the agreement on the protocol, we’ll start to open up some of those other other economic benefits from Boris’s trade deal.

Danker is speaking at the CBI conference just before Sunak. As my colleague Graeme Wearden reports on his business live blog, Danker will argue that last week’s autumn statement did not contain a plan for growth.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10.15am: Rishi Sunak speaks at the CBI conference in Birmingham.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

4.15pm: Gove gives evidence to the Commons levelling up committee.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter (unless it finally crashes under Elon Musk). I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Tony Danker, the CBI director general. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

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