Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said he wants to stick to the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU signed by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, rejecting reports that the UK is considering a Swiss-style relationship with closer ties to the bloc.

In an appearance before Parliament’s Treasury Committee on Wednesday, Hunt was emphatic in his rejection of the Swiss model as an alternative to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement brokered by Johnson.

“We do not support, we would not contemplate, I do not support, I have never contemplated any agreement which means moving away from the TCA,” Hunt said. The UK wants independence in devising its regulations, and to avoid “paying unnecessary money to the EU or indeed compromising on freedom of movement,” he said.

The remarks add further distance between the top of government and a report in the Sunday Times at the weekend that senior government figures plan to put Britain on a pathway to closer economic ties with the bloc akin to those enjoyed by Switzerland. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rejected the prospect on Monday.

“Under my leadership the United Kingdom will not pursue any relationship with Europe that relies on alignment with EU laws,” Sunak said at the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference in Birmingham.


But the story raised the hackles of the Brexiteer right wing of the ruling Conservative Party, which rejects payments to the EU, regulatory alignment and the freedom of movement of workers -- all of which are components of the bloc’s relationship with Switzerland. 

Hunt told the BBC on Friday that in the years ahead, the UK will be “able to remove the vast majority of the trade barriers that exist between us and the EU.”

That meant suspicion had surrounded his potential involvement in the Sunday Times story amid UK media speculation that he or the Treasury was the source. On Wednesday he issued a carefully-worded denial to the Treasury Committee.

“If you’re saying: was the Treasury, was I, the source for any suggestion that we should seek to renegotiate the TCA to move it towards an agreement more like the one with Switzerland, the answer is no, because it’s not my position, never has been,” he said.