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Switzerland and Brexit: better not to wait for the British



Theresa May and her husband Philip walk somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Image: AP / POOL AFP

Switzerland and Brexit: because it's better not to wait for the British

Switzerland and the United Kingdom have much in common: they consider themselves a special case and have negotiated controversial or desperate contracts with the EU. However, it would be hard to hope for the British.

Two countries, similar problems: Tuesday afternoon, the debates on European policy took place virtually simultaneously in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. For the first time since the 1990s, a public hearing took place in Bern. The foreign politicians of the National Council have questioned experts of different colors on the framework agreement with the EU.

The debate was civil, even the infamous provocateur Roger Köppel held back. This mainly because nothing was decided in this hearing. Very different at the same time in the venerable House of Commons in Westminster. Here came the point, the deputies voted on the negotiations with the EU Brexit Treaty.

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Video: srf

In the end, he put a devastating defeat on Prime Minister Theresa May. More than 100 Conservative MPs deserted and voted no. Only a day later, these Tories returned well in the womb of the party and expressed their confidence in May. The seemingly contradictory behavior corresponds to the confusion caused by Brexit in the kingdom.

Divorce vs. concubinage

It can be a glimpse of the scenario that Switzerland expects, even if the framework agreement will be tough. If it comes too far. The agreement could already be buried after the consultations that the Federal Council launched on Wednesday. He wants to decide later, if and how he will continue. He probably continues to play for time.

Daily debates are not the only commonality between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Both struggle for their relations with the EU, albeit under different conditions. The British want a divorce, the Swiss, however, their "concubinage" settle, said FDP National Councilor Christa Mark Walder at CH Media. In Brussels, we speak of "registered union".

Both countries consider themselves a special case and like to distance themselves from the rest of the continent. And both have difficulty with the free movement of people, a pillar of the EU internal market. Immigration of EU citizens played a key role in the adoption of the mass immigration initiative in February 2014, as in the Brexit decision of June 2016.

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The vote in Switzerland also showed the limits of national sovereignty. Since the EU did not want to make concessions on the free movement agreement, Parliament decided to implement the SVP initiative in the form of unemployment priorities. It is now threatening to repeat the accompanying measures against wage dumping.

How with MEI?

Since the EU wants to accept them only to a very limited extent, SP and unions are fighting the framework agreement. They hope that the EU will yield over time and weigh down the highest social issue. There is a high probability that it will be just like the gossip of the MEI. The British are threatened by a similar scenario to Brexit.

The biggest obstacle is the so-called "backstop", with which the border between Ireland and the North of the UK should remain open even after the exit of the EU. The central element is the location of the United Kingdom or at least Northern Ireland in the customs union with the EU. Advocates of Brexit require that the backstop be temporary or one-sided.

The Irish are resisting

However, the headquarters of the EU in Brussels could not give up even if it wanted to. Because Ireland does not play. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday his government position: "We have said from day one that Brexit can not lead to a difficult border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, we owe it to the Northern and Southern Irish".

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar defends the interests of Republicans in Northern Ireland. Image: AP / PA

This refers primarily to Republicans in Northern Ireland. For them, the open border is part of the peace process initiated in 1998. The DUP, the party of probatory trade unionists, minimizes this aspect. The border was actually always open. Republicans were guilty of checks and fortifications during the "Troubles".

"Great opportunity" for Switzerland

These discourses show how still peace is fragile in Northern Ireland, despite superficial normality. For the EU as a whole, however, another aspect is important. It wants to prevent the Irish border from becoming a backdoor for the British, giving them unlimited access to the European market after their departure.

It is therefore questionable whether the renegotiations can improve Theresa May's failed business. Some in Switzerland hope for this. The economic historian Tobias Straumann, who is currently conducting research at Oxford, described it in the Tamedia interview as "a great opportunity" for Switzerland, "to talk about certain points of the framework agreement" .

This could prove to be an illusion. The two dossiers are ultimately too different. And even Straumann admits that Switzerland could afford a break with the EU less than the British. Moreover, she brings a much lower "weight of struggle" on the scale in the struggle with Brussels. Economically and geopolitically, Britain has more to offer.

The EU aggravates the pace

Also this week there was an anticipation: the European Secretary of State Roberto Balzaretti declared on Wednesday that he does not consider the threat of the European Union a bluff, not only failing to conclude new access agreements to the market in the case of Switzerland, but does not update existing bilateral treaties. ,

The hearing of experts from the Commission for Foreign Policy. Image: KEYSTONE

Perhaps Balzaretti already knew the NZZ newspaper of the European Commission. Therefore, this practice already applies today: "The ongoing discussions or negotiations should be suspended or postponed until a satisfactory result for the framework agreement is found." Exceptions exist only where this is in the "prevailing interest" of the EU.

Member countries have priority

Under today's bilateral regime, Switzerland is powerless against such splits, just as the European Union cancels accompanying measures. Similar to the problem of Ireland, it must represent the interests of its members on this point. For neighboring countries, wage protection defended by the left hinders access to the market in Switzerland.

In the end, it is the Member States that set the pace in the EU. British and Swiss underestimate or ignore this aspect too often. This is also a commonality. How the Brexit works and the framework agreement. However, there is no way around a regulated relationship with the far more important trading partner for both countries.

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