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Direct democracy live Brexit: what would Switzerland do?

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The proposed Brexit agreement is very much under discussion, MPs will soon be voting on the deal

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press)

On Tuesday the British Parliament will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's deal on the UK's exit from the European Union. But the deal appears likely to fail in parliament and what happens next is unclear. What would direct democracy veteran Switzerland do?

Journalist Jo Fahy put this question and more to's direct democracy specialist, Renat Künzi, in a discussion broadcast live on Facebookexternal link.

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A Facebook live discussion

A tried and tested Swiss system

In Switzerland citizens get to have their say on a whole range of issues, normally four times a year. An information pamphlet is produced containing detailed information: the positions of both sides of the initiative and the government and parliament's recommendation on how people should vote.

The votes also take place on a number of different levels, from large national issues, to cantonal decisions, right down to very local decisions at the municipality level. 

There is a system in place for which issues will be voted on and how the process is organised. If people are unhappy with the implementation of a successful initiative, there is even an established procedure for how citizens can attempt to have this changed. But the democratic process doesn't always run smoothly, and there have been various controversies over the years in Switzerland. 

The Swiss system is therefore quite different to that of the UK. Unlike in Switzerland, referendums such as the Brexit vote, are rare in comparison.

If parliamentarians reject the proposed EU "divorce" deal, there is no consensus among politicians or the public on how to proceed. Going back to the EU to try and renegotiate, calling a general election or holding a second referendum are all options that are currently being fiercely debated.  

You can contact the author of this article Jo Fahy, on Facebookexternal link or Twitterexternal link and's direct democracy specialist, Renat Künzi on Twitterexternal link.

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