The Swiss parliament has voted to withdraw the country’s long-standing application to join the European Union (EU) amid a row on immigration.
The National Council, the lower house of the Swiss parliament, voted by 126 to 46 to formally withdraw the application, 24 years after the country first applied for membership of what was then the European Community (EC). The withdrawal motion will now go to the Council of States.
Lukas Reimann of the Swiss People’s Party proposed the motion, arguing it was “high time” to withdraw the application, and that Switzerland should no longer be treated as a country that wants to join the EU.
He also gave a good-luck message to the people of Britain who wish the quit the bloc: “This is a clear and historical message from the Swiss parliament to British voters. We wish you the best of luck for Brexit. These days, Switzerland is called Britzerland because Swiss people support the Brexit”.
“A big advantage of leaving the EU,” he said, “Is free trade worldwide, not only between the member states, making it easier and cheaper for British companies to export their goods to the rest of the world. The boost to income outweighs the billions of pounds in membership fees that Britain would save if it left the EU.”
Switzerland has never been a member of the EU, although it is a member of the Schengen free movement zone. Two years ago, the Swiss people voted in a referendum to impose strict new immigration quotas, something that necessitates the Swiss government renegotiating various deals with the EU.
However, Brussels has refused to comply, telling the Swiss they would also have to give up free trade access.
Yesterday’s symbolic vote comes in response to that refusal.
However, foreign minister Didier Burkhalter said the motion was “unnecessary” as Switzerland has no intention to join the EU and is considered an “independent sovereign nation” by Brussels.
“Brexit will make this traditional friendship better and more successful than ever,” Mr Reimann added. “British and Swiss people are clever: They know why Europe is the most fascinating continent because of diversity, human rights, competition between the states and freedom.
“I wish you a courageous and visionary referendum!”