The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Swiss talks with the European Union should be kept completely separate from negotiations over a British exit.
Switzerland is trying to strike a deal with the EU that accommodates a 2014 public vote to re-introduce quotas on EU workers in the Alpine nation. However, this directly contravenes bilateral treaties and one of the EU’s key principles – that of the free movement of people accord which allows EU citizens to live and work in member states.
Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, met Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday. The two discussed Switzerland’s attempts to achieve a solution specifically for their issue. However, Switzerland’s fortunes with the EU have taken somewhat of a backseat since Britain voted to leave the union.
If the EU agrees to any concessions with Switzerland, Britain may well see this as indicative of what they could expect from a new agreement.
At a press conference in the German city on Wednesday, Merkel said she had tried to “put herself in the shoes of a Swiss citizen”, and added that she wouldn’t be happy about negotiations changing ”because of another decision in another country”.
Schneider-Ammann meanwhile said he hoped to reach a deal over quotas and the free movement of people by the end of the year.
In a radio interview before the meeting he stated that Switzerland was not going to be put under pressure to give up sovereignty. The Swiss have until early next year to implement the public vote to put limits on EU immigration.
swissinfo.ch and agencies