Swiss president: Brexit agreement is “good news”

Now time for a deal with Switzerland? EU headquarters in Brussels. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Incoming Swiss president Guy Parmelin has in principle welcomed the deal reached between the European Union and the United Kingdom. In Switzerland, attention will now turn to the country’s own negotiations on a framework agreement with Brussels.

This content was published on December 27, 2020 - 16:50

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, Parmelin simply said it was “good news for the whole world, including for Switzerland, that the deal had been reached”.

However, the economics minister, who is to take over the rotating role of Swiss president in January, said he couldn’t comment further before the full text of the deal was made available.

The SonntagsZeitung, meanwhile, added its analysis of the situation to those published in the media here on Christmas day, saying that the deal would “surely help to settle the unclear relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom”.

However, the paper reckons, it’s less clear whether the deal can now be used as a sort of “model” for fine-tuning an agreement between Switzerland and the EU, who have also been trying to sort out their bilateral relations for years.

Concerning the fact that the UK is not going to be bound to decisions made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the paper says that while this has raised some hopes in Switzerland, it shouldn’t be counted on as being replicable – Brexit is essentially a trade deal, while Switzerland is negotiating an overarching framework agreement, it writes.

Switzerland is de facto a member of the EU internal market – unlike the UK now – and there is no legal basis for getting around the ECJ’s jurisdiction, it writes. However, Brexit may give a political basis for discussing it further, it says.

The government is due to meet again this Wednesday, and should discuss the current situation with the EU.

Business acceptance

The framework deal aims to bring the many bilateral agreements that currently regulate relations between Switzerland and the EU under a common structure. Currently, a draft has been arrived at, but the Swiss still have some issues with various parts of it.

It’s also a divisive issue in the country. While some political parties, notably the right-wing People’s Party, oppose the deal and have pledged to force a national referendum on it, economic leaders and businesses are largely in favour.

A survey mandated by two leading economic associations, also published on Sunday, has shown that when it comes to choosing between different types of relations which the Swiss could have with Brussels, a framework agreement and bilateral deals remains the preferred option for 75% of businesses (over 1,000 firms were polled by the gfs.bern research group).

Over 70% of businesses surveyed said that the current patchwork of bilateral arrangements was advantageous, while 60% said they would support a framework agreement in the context of a national vote.

Lorenz Furrer of Alliance EP, one of the two groups behind the survey, said the position of businesses was “mainly down to a wish to preserve the beneficial bilateral deal, and to avoid endangering any threat to exports”.  

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