January 26, 2018 / 7:59 AM / 25 days ago

UK should have almost identical market access to EU after Brexit - health minister

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should be able to agree an almost identical level of market access to the European Union with a free trade agreement after Brexit because the two sides start from a point of regulatory alignment, the health minister said on Friday.

Jeremy Hunt was asked about Britain’s future trading relationship with Europe after finance minister Philip Hammond called for a modest Brexit that would keep Britain as closely aligned as possible with the bloc after its 2019 exit.

“The issue here is not the extent of divergence but the freedom to diverge,” Hunt told BBC Radio.

“We start in the unique position with the EU of total regulatory alignment and that actually makes it much easier to negotiate. That means that we should be able to expect very limited and possibly no changes to market access as a result of the free trade deal that we negotiate.”

Hunt added that Britain would over time be able to take a “sovereign decision” as to where its regulations do or do not diverge.

Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Costas Pitas

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