Jeremy Hunt said neither he nor a Treasury official had “run the hares” as the source behind a story about the government considering a Swiss-style Brexit deal.
Discuss the Sunday Times article suggesting that the government is in favor of a Swiss-style arrangementthe Chancellor told the Commons Treasury Select Committee that he was “not the source of any suggestion that we want to move away from the ACT (trade and cooperation agreement)”.
He also ruled out any suggestion that the government intends to re-enter the single market of the European Union.
“We support the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. We think it’s a great deal that was brokered by Boris Johnson and David Frost,” Mr Hunt said.
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“We don’t support, we wouldn’t consider, I wouldn’t support, I’ve never considered a deal that means moving away from the ATT, it means we’re not negotiating or deciding what regulations we want as equal sovereigns, paying unnecessary money to the EU or even compromising freedom of movement.
“That has always been my position as chancellor.
“In relation to the Sunday Times article, if you say it was the Treasury, was I the source of any suggestion that we should seek to renegotiate the ATT to move it towards an agreement closer to the agreement with Switzerland, the answer is no.
“If you say whether I believe we could remove physical barriers to trade in the way that occurs at the French-Swiss border, the border between Norway and Sweden, perhaps in a way relevant to the NIP (Northern Ireland Protocol) issues…that’s been my public stance for some time.”
Treasury Committee Chair Harriett Baldwin said Mr Hunt“Looks like the hares that suddenly made the front page of the Sunday Times may have started their run from the Treasury.”
The Chancellor continued: “I am not and the Treasury is not behind any suggestion that we want to move away from the ATT (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) or not have sovereign control of our regulations.
“If you say ‘do I believe technology can reduce barriers to trade’, yes I do and I think that could be a very important way forward.
“In the context of people saying Brexit trade barriers are the cause of our problems, my answer is that I think technology will be a solution.”
He added: “I think you should speak to The Sunday Times, but I want to be clear about what I’ve said in public and in private and be absolutely clear that my position and the government’s position has been and have always been supportive of the TCA, full regulatory independence and I think you can look at the fall statement to see what I believe, because that’s what I actually did.”
“I can rule out any suggestion that the government ever intended to move away from the TCA, to move to a situation where we don’t have full control of our regulations, to compromise (on) the freedom of movement – I can say absolutely that was never our position and that we did not put those hares to flight, no.”
Elsewhere at the committee hearing, in a light dig at his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng and former Prime Minister Liz Truss, Mr Hunt said: ‘There is only one thing worse than a forecast and it’s not having a forecast.”
Mr Kwarteng dodged a forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility ahead of his disastrous mini-budget.
Hunt treads very cautiously on the question of non-dom tax changes.
The chancellor told the committee he wanted to make sure ‘wealthy foreigners pay as much tax as possible in this country’ but added: ‘I don’t want to do anything that loses more than we save.’
“If you look at the budget, we have delivered on the commitment that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden.”
He added that those without dom status contributed £8billion a year to the UK economy and that he would ‘rather have them stay here and spend their money here’ than move abroad. ‘foreign.
Mr Hunt said he had asked for figures showing that closing the tax loophole for non-doms would bring in £3.5billion a year to look into.
A person registered as non-domiciled (non-dom) with HMRC is a tax resident in the UK but does not have to pay UK tax on income and capital gains earned overseas unless they bring their money to the UK or deposit it in a UK bank account.
However, non-doms still have to pay tax on money earned in the UK.