Switzerland withdrew from the talks yesterday, prompting a furious reaction from disappointed EU officials. A MEP has warned that Switzerland will now have to “pick up the pieces” of the failed negotiations as relations crumble with the state – which is not a member of the EU. Andreas Schwab, chairman of the EU-Switzerland interparliamentary delegation, condemned the current arrangement and warned that collaboration between the two would suffer.
The European Commission has also issued a statement claiming that the current agreement with Switzerland is obsolete and needs to be changed.
Mr Schwab told Politico: “As long as there is a national narrative that the EU is working against Swiss interests, it will be difficult to work closely together.
“No problem is solved by outright rejection.
“The Swiss negotiating team will now have to pick up the pieces.”
Switzerland rejected the deal over the EU’s request for full access to its internal labor market.
If this had been agreed, it would have enabled non-Swiss citizens to have social security rights in the country.
The EU had hoped to secure a comprehensive treaty to replace the 120 separate bilateral agreements that include a 50-year-old trade agreement.
A Commission statement asserted that the failure of negotiations would prevent the modernization of trade relations.
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“This agreement would have made it possible to consolidate the bilateral approach and ensure its sustainability and development.
“Already today, they are not aware of what the relations between the EU and Switzerland should and could be.”
Since the country is not part of the EU or its customs union, Switzerland can negotiate its own trade agreements.
Although Switzerland has rejected the deal, the EU remains its most important trading partner, with the country exporting 42% of its goods to the bloc.
Despite this important relationship, Swiss voters rejected free movement and, in 2014, also supported a restriction on immigration to the EU, although 1.4 million EU citizens live in the state.
The country’s president, Guy Parmelin, insisted that the state could not allow increased access to Switzerland’s domestic market.
He said: “The Federal Council today took the decision not to sign the agreement and communicated this decision to the EU.