The EU ambassador to Switzerland, Richard Jones, has said in an interview with Swiss public television, SRF, that there is a “lot of goodwill” in Brussels towards the Swiss when it comes to resolving the outstanding question on the free movement of people.
The Swiss people voted in 2014 to re-introduce quotas on the number of EU workers allowed into the country. However, this directly contradicts the free movement of people agreement between European Union states, a deal that Switzerland is also a part of.
Jones has been in his role in Switzerland since 2012 and will leave at the end of August.
When asked by SRF how the June 23 British vote to leave the EU will affect the Swiss relationship with the union, he answered: “I’ve been very struck in the conversations I’ve had in recent days by how much senior Swiss people are saying, ‘well, actually, business goes on. We respect the British result but we have our own relationship with the EU, we’ve invested a lot of work in that and we will continue with the path that we are on’.”
He commented that Switzerland is a “very sophisticated partner” of the EU, “it knows what it wants”, but added that it is “genuinely one of our most important partners”.
The Swiss cabinet has until February 2017 to find a solution to the issue of EU immigration that respects the people’s wishes and is also acceptable to the EU. Talks were put on hold while the Brexit campaign was running, and now how to handle a British exit from the union has taken centre stage.
As to whether a solution for Switzerland’s desired change of direction on EU immigration can be found by the summer, Jones said: “we just don’t know”. He stated that while there is “a lot of goodwill towards Switzerland, a lot of will to get these issues settled” there is also “determination, I think, on the part of the Union not to deviate from the principles upon which the Union is based, and that is absolutely central to our position”.
He added that “things will become harder” for Switzerland once Britain and the EU formally begin negotiations for a British exit.
Asked about his personal plans after the end of his job in Switzerland, Jones said there may well be a need in the UK for people with experience with the EU.