EU-Switzerland Trade Deal Fails over Bloc’s Free Movement Migration Demands

A Swiss flag is seen floating at sunset above Lake Geneva on October 5, 2017 from the Mont de Gourze in Riez, western Switzerland. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Trade talks between the European Union and Switzerland have collapsed as a result of Brussels’ demands to include aspects of its Free Movement migration regime in the deal.

“Taking into account consultations [within Switzerland] and based on the results of negotiations in recent months, the Federal Council has determined that the talks with the EU… have not led to the necessary solutions,” said the Swiss president, Guy Parmelin, in comments to reporters.

“The Federal Council has therefore decided to terminate the negotiations,” he confirmed.

The failure of the talks, which had dragged since 2013, will come as a major embarrassment to Brussels, coming so soon after Brexit and a host of failures related to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and vaccine procurement.

“We take note of this unilateral decision of the Swiss Government,” the European Commission said of their wealthy neighbour’s decision to “terminate the negotiations of the EU-Swiss Institutional Framework Agreement” in a somewhat passive-aggressive official statement.

“We regret this decision, given the progress that has been made over the last years to make the Institutional Framework Agreement a reality,” they added, in stark defiance of the actual reality of the Swiss deeming the progress so insufficient that they pulled the plug on the talks.

The deal failed because, as is often the case with the European Union, it could not confine itself to merely agreeing to free trade in goods and mutual recognition of standards or even commitments by its partner to follow EU standards, but insisted on bolting on extras, including Switzerland’s effective participation in the Free Movement migration regime of its Single Market.

The Swiss had expressed concerns about the effect this could have on their jobs market, and the possibility of EU migrants gaining access to Swiss social security welfare and impacting the country’s relatively high wages.

The EU was also reportedly pushing for its European Court of Justice (ECJ) to hold sway in Switzerland and for curbs on the Swiss government’s sovereign control over the administration of state aid.

The dispute in many ways echoes the tortured process of striking an EU-UK deal in the wake of Brexit, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson — despite his media reputation as a staunch ‘Hard Brexiteer’ — having made massive concessions to the EU with respect to EU access to British fishing waters and EU control over Northern Ireland for the purposes of customs and regulations, both of which continue to spark sometimes physical clashes to the present day.

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