Nigel Farage, head of the UK’s Brexit party, says Switzerland was an “inspiration” for the United Kingdom on leaving the European Union.
“Switzerland has managed to maintain its sovereignty and independence and reach bilateral agreements with the EU,” he said in an interviewexternal link with Swiss television RTS. “You managed to do it without being part of the EU, so did Norway.”
Farage was speaking at the European parliament as the UK prepares to leave the European Union on January 31. Farage, although his party did not win any seats in the last UK election, has been one of the key people behind the Brexit campaign.
Switzerland’s relations with the EU are currently covered by around 120 separate bilateral agreements negotiated after a 1992 referendum in which the Alpine State rejected joining the European Economic Area.
But not all is well. Since 2014, talks have been taking place to formalise relations between Bern and Brussels, but Bern is still stalling on signing a so-called “framework agreement” saying it wants certain points clarified.
Swiss-EU relations were the main focus of talks between foreign minister Ignazio Cassis and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Bern on Thursday. Austria is one of a small group within the EU that understands the Swiss position, Schallenberg told a press conference. "We want relations between the EU and Switzerland to be good in the future,” he said, adding that the current situation is “very unsatisfactory”.
During the meeting with Schallenberg, Cassis “explained the Federal Council's decision to closely involve the cantons and social partners” in the process of signing a framework deal with the EU,” according to a foreign ministry press releaseexternal link, “and how Switzerland also expects willingness on the part of the EU to discuss this issue”.
“Mr Cassis reaffirmed the Federal Council's position to consolidate and develop the bilateral approach by entering into an institutional agreement to ensure that the bilateral agreements operate more effectively,” the press release continues.
“For Switzerland, this step is conditional on reaching a solution on wage and worker protection, state aid and the Citizens' Rights Directive that has broad domestic support.”