Home Health Rishi Sunak quashes talk of Swiss-style Brexit – UK politics live

Rishi Sunak quashes talk of Swiss-style Brexit – UK politics live


Sunak quashes talk of shift to Swiss-style Brexit, saying he would block any move requiring UK to align with EU laws

Rishi Sunak has now finished taking questions, and in response to the second question, from ITV’s Harry Horton, he delivered his firmest response to the Sunday Times story suggestion the government wants a Swiss-type deal with the EU in the long term. (See 8.51am and 9.48am.) Sunak said:

On trade, 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.

Now 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 our country about the type of migration that we want and need.

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 CPTPP, 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.

Or indeed regulation … We need regulatory regimes that are fit for the future that ensure that this country can be leaders in those industries that are going to create the jobs and the growth of the future. And having the regulatory freedom to do that is an important opportunity of Brexit.

And that’s my agenda. And I’m confident that that agenda is not only right for the country, but can deliver enormous benefit for people up and down the UK in the years to come.

This is significant. Ruling out any relationship with the EU “that relies on alignment with EU laws” would rule out any Swiss-style deal with Brussels. Switzerland is not in the European Economic Area (for EU countries and others fully signed up to the single market, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), but it does participate in the single market as a member of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and it has multiple agreements with the EU that require it to align with EU laws.

I will post more from the speech and Q&A shortly.

Rishi Sunak speaking at the CBI conference.
Rishi Sunak speaking at the CBI conference. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Key events

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Veterans who participated in British nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s are going to get a medal, the Cabinet Office has announced. Some 22,000 veterans will be eligible for the medal, which can also be awarded posthumously and claimed by next of kin. Campaigners have been demanding this recognition for veterans for years.

Rishi Sunak, who has been at a service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first British test of a nuclear weapon, said:

I am incredibly proud that we are able to mark the service and dedication of our nuclear test veterans with this new medal. Their commitment and service has preserved peace for the past 70 years, and it is only right their contribution to our safety, freedom and way of life is appropriately recognised with this honour.

Rishi Sunak talking to atom bomb test veterans Ed McGrath and Eric Barton after announcing that nuclear test veterans will receive a medal recognising their service, during a commemoration event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.
Rishi Sunak talking to atom bomb test veterans Ed McGrath and Eric Barton after announcing that nuclear test veterans will receive a medal recognising their service, during a commemoration event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Villiers defends amendment to levelling up bill that would ban mandatory housing targets

Theresa Villiers, the Conservative former environment secretary, is leading a bid to abolish government house-building targets. She has tabled amendments to the levelling up bill, which is having its report stage in the Commons on Wednesday, including one banning mandatory targets. Another 27 Tories have also signed it. Explaining why she wanted to pass the amendment, she told Times Radio:

I just believe that it’s wrong that local decision making is being consistently undermined by these centrally set housing targets.

If you give local people the power and responsibility over what gets built in their neighbourhood, they will still deliver new homes, it will happen, but in a way which is much more in tune with what local communities want and which is much more consistent with our environmental aspirations.

In a column in the Sunday Times yesterday, Robert Colvile, head of the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank and one of the authors of the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto, described the Villiers’s amendment as “wicked” and said it would “enshrine nimbyism as the governing principle of British society”, making it harder for young people to buy homes. He said:

These amendments take the biggest divide in our society and prise it wide open. They make the recession — and the accompanying austerity — far worse, given the contribution made by construction to GDP. They cost thousands of people their jobs. They prevent the building of affordable housing, which is funded by levies on private developments. They entrench the dominance of the large housebuilders. They are selfish. They are short-sighted. And they must be stopped.

Villiers has made clear she is not budging. Indeed, she is notorious for her obstinacy. But I implore any MPs tempted to support her to understand the full consequences. If you back these wicked proposals, you are spitting in the face of a generation — not to mention removing any prospect of its members ever becoming homeowners and voting Tory.

At the Downing Street lobby briefing this morning the PM’s spokesperson rejected suggestions that there was any sort of rift between Rishi Sunak and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, over the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU. (See 12.28pm.) The spokesperson said Sunak and Hunt were “absolutely” in agreement on Brexit policy.

Sturgeon says she has ‘unshakeable commitment’ to keeping NHS free at point of use

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said that that she has an “unshakeable commitment” to maintain the NHS as a service that will be free at the point of use. She was responding to the report saying Scottish NHS executives discussed the case for charging wealthier patients, as a means of addressing the NHS funding crisis. (See 10.23am.) This is from LBC’s Jack Foster.

There will be two urgent questions on the Commons today after 3.30pm: Caroline Lucas from the Green party is asking one on Cop27, and then Labour’s Ruth Jones is asking one on the sale of Newport Wafer Fab.

Sunak’s speech and Q&A to CBI – summary and analysis

Rishi Sunak’s speech to the CBI conference this morning won’t be remembered as enormously incisive or transformative. But the last time a PM addressed the CBI a year ago, it was Boris Johnson rambling on about Peppa Pig, and so it was not hard for Sunak to make a better impression, which he did. Here are the main points from his speech and Q&A.

  • Sunak used his Q&A to authoritatively quash suggestions the government might seek a Swiss-style deal with the EU in the long term. (See 11.41am.) If, as is widely assumed (see 9.48am), Jeremy Hunt was behind the Sunday Times story, then Sunak’s comments can be seen as rebuke to his chancellor.

Part of the reason we ended free movement of labour was to rebuild public consent in our immigration system.

If we’re going to have a system that allows businesses to access the best and brightest from around the world …

….we need to do more to give the British people trust and confidence that the system works and is fair.

That means tackling illegal migration.

And in his Q&A, when asked specifically about the CBI’s call for firms to be allowed to hire more workers from abroad (see 9.04am), Sunak kept returning to his point about tackling illegal immigration. As Harry Cole from the Sun and Chris Smyth from the Times point out, he seemed to be deliberately linking the two issues.

He;

Yes, striking that this was what Sunak seemed to be telling the CBI: if we sort out the channel, then no one is going to complain about us giving you the software engineers you want.

But control needs to come first

— Chris Smyth (@Smyth_Chris) November 21, 2022

In one concession to business, though, Sunak did not restate the government’s commitment to reducing the overall level of immigration.

The further we get from 2016 the more curious and unconvincing it seems to sound when politicians talk up the “benefits of Brexit”, as Rishi Sunak is doing at the CBI conference. It’s 6+ years on now, and the benefits are still being discussed in theoretical terms.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) November 21, 2022

When it comes to the NHS, we all share the same ambition …

… to give everybody in the country the best possible care, free at the point of use.

But to deliver it, we need to be bold and radical in challenging conventional wisdom.

In terms of examples as to what he meant by this, Sunak said that he wanted to give patients more choice, informed by “radical transparency” about the performance of doctors (an idea that governments have been pursuing at least since the Tony Blair era) and that he wanted the government to think creatively about the roles needed in healthcare (see 10.56am).

  • Sunak suggested that he would like an overhaul of the school curriculum. Saying that there was no responsibility he felt more deeply as PM than being in charge of developing a world-class education system, he said:

We are asking ourselves radical searching, questions.

About the curriculum – because young people need to enter the modern economy equipped with the right knowledge and skills.

And about technology – because we want to help children engage and learn better and save teachers’ time.

If we can get that right with more robotics and automation, then we can drive up productivity. It reduces some of the pressure on labour, creates good jobs for people.

It’s something that we lag behind in – I think there was a study from the Robotics Federation, or whoever it was, a couple of years ago which showed that we under-index for the amount of automation and robotics, even when you control for the sectoral mix of our economy.

So that, to me, is actually low-hanging fruit when we talk about how do we drive up growth, we’ve got an opportunity there to do it, and to do it relatively quickly, I hope.

Faisal Islam, the BBC’s economics editor, says Sunak is right.

PM just quoted the underindexing of robots in UK manufacturing… to the CBI!

This is one of my favourite statistics that the UK doesn’t even feature on the @IFR_robots league table of “robot density” top 20 in the world… pic.twitter.com/kgpwryV42I

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) November 21, 2022

Actually the latest stats are pretty stark…

In 2021, Germany installed almost as many new industrial robots in one year (23,777), as the UK (24,445) has in the entirety of history…

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) November 21, 2022

More concerning, in a record year for global installations:

“In UK, industrial robot installations were down by 7%. The operational stock of robots was calculated at less than a tenth of Germany´s stock. The automotive industry reduced installations by 42% to 507 units in 2021”

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) November 21, 2022

Rishi Sunak addressing the CBI.
Rishi Sunak addressing the CBI. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Sunak quashes talk of shift to Swiss-style Brexit, saying he would block any move requiring UK to align with EU laws

Rishi Sunak has now finished taking questions, and in response to the second question, from ITV’s Harry Horton, he delivered his firmest response to the Sunday Times story suggestion the government wants a Swiss-type deal with the EU in the long term. (See 8.51am and 9.48am.) Sunak said:

On trade, 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.

Now 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 our country about the type of migration that we want and need.

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 CPTPP, 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.

Or indeed regulation … We need regulatory regimes that are fit for the future that ensure that this country can be leaders in those industries that are going to create the jobs and the growth of the future. And having the regulatory freedom to do that is an important opportunity of Brexit.

And that’s my agenda. And I’m confident that that agenda is not only right for the country, but can deliver enormous benefit for people up and down the UK in the years to come.

This is significant. Ruling out any relationship with the EU “that relies on alignment with EU laws” would rule out any Swiss-style deal with Brussels. Switzerland is not in the European Economic Area (for EU countries and others fully signed up to the single market, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), but it does participate in the single market as a member of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and it has multiple agreements with the EU that require it to align with EU laws.

I will post more from the speech and Q&A shortly.

Rishi Sunak speaking at the CBI conference.
Rishi Sunak speaking at the CBI conference. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Sunak tells his audience that he needs to hear from business what regulations can be changed to make the UK more innovative.

Those questions were all from journalists. Now Sunak is taking questions from business figures at the conference.

Tony Danker goes first. He asks Sunak if the government thinks it has the right tax regime to incentivise investment in skills, innovation and capital, or will it go further.

Sunak says tax relief in these areas has been improved. He says the super-deduction was unique; there was nothing like it elsewhere in the world, as far as the government can tell, he says. He suggests these matters are being kept under review.





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