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Swiss public opinion prefers EU trade to immigration curbs

Swiss public opinion prefers EU trade to immigration curbs

BASEL: The Swiss prefer close trade ties to the EU than immigration curbs according to a survey published on Sunday by SonntagsBlick.

In December, the Swiss parliament adopted a system giving residents of Switzerland priority over non-residents in the Swiss labour market. That is short of the demands made by the opposition.

The far-right opposition is demanding an absolute ceiling to EU migration, in line with the result of a 2014 binding referendum. In 2014, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) spearheaded the anti-immigration campaign and insisted on a clear quota system. The far-right party could still collect 50,000 votes to force a second referendum on the issue. 25% of the residents of Switzerland are foreign nationals.

The polls on Sunday suggest 47% of the Swiss would vote to curb immigration, just like in 2014, but 43% would prioritize trade relations. Pressed to make an “either or” choice, 54% favour retaining access to the EU’s Single Market, with 41% willing to jeopardize it; 5% is undecided.

Switzerland exports 60% of its goods to the EU, selling everything from cheese to financial services. Switzerland’s “special relationship” with the EU has been built through seven interlinked agreements negotiated since 1999. For political reasons, Brussels has made clear that each agreement is part of a package and if one collapses, the package is off the table. Brussels cannot afford to show leniency, which could have a spillover effect in Brexit negotiations. However, reflecting political discourse in the U.K, the SVP maintains that the stakes are equally high for the EU and access to the Single Market will not be disrupted if Switzerland moved to curb EU migration.

For political reasons, Brussels has made clear that each agreement is part of a package and if one collapses, the package is off the table. Brussels cannot afford to show leniency, which could have a spillover effect in Brexit negotiations.

However, reflecting political discourse in the U.K, the SVP maintains that the stakes are equally high for the EU and access to the Single Market will not be disrupted if Switzerland moved to curb EU migration.The far-right continues to argue that it is possible to combine access and a curb on migration.