Rishi Sunak insists UK committed to using 'Brexit freedoms' amid reports of plans for closer relationship with EU

Rishi Sunak has insisted the UK remains committed to using its “Brexit freedoms” following reports of plans for a closer relationship with the European Union.

The Prime Minister insisted he would not allow any return to alignment with EU rules, and claimed he wanted to make Britain an “island of innovation”.

Addressing the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, Mr Sunak dismissed reports the UK wants closer ties with the EU with arrangements similar to that of Switzerland to ensure access to the EU’s single market.

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He said: “Let me be unequivocal about this – under my leadership, the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws,” he told the CBI conference in Birmingham.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during the CBI annual conference at the Vox Conference Centre in Birmingham. Picture date: Monday November 21, 2022.

“I voted for Brexit, I believe in Brexit and I know that Brexit can deliver, and is already delivering, enormous benefits and opportunities for the country – migration being an immediate one where we have proper control of our borders and are able to have a conversation with the country about the type of migration that we want and need.

“We weren’t able to do that inside the European Union. At least now we are in control of it. When it comes to trade, it means that we can open up our country to the world’s fastest-growing markets.

"I’ve just got back from the G20 in Indonesia, we’re talking about signing [the] CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership], where we’ve got some of the most exciting, fastest-growing economies in the world and we can become a part of that trading bloc. That’s a fantastic opportunity for the UK.”

The declaration came as business chiefs urged Mr Sunak to be more specific about how he plans to drive growth in the UK. CBI director-general Tony Danker called for more detail to help businesses invest with confidence.

Mr Sunak told business leaders he was “absolutely committed” to using “Brexit freedoms”. He said: "First, we need to harness innovation to drive economic growth.

"Second, we need to embed innovation in our public services, especially our NHS. Third, we need to teach people the skills to become great innovators.”

The Prime Minister also stressed controlling inflation was critical to improving living standards, and would be the “defining focus” of his Government.

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He said: “The best way to help people is by stopping mortgages, rents and food prices from spiralling out of control. Re-establishing stability is the critical first step.

“But there’s so much more we need to do. I’m not just here to solve problems, I want to build a better country where we get inflation down and grow the economy, where we cut NHS waiting times and improve the quality of care, and where we invest more in schools and give every child a world-class education. Critical to achieving all of this is innovation.”

Earlier immigration minister Robert Jenrick had suggested reports of closer ties with the EU “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

He 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.”

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