EU Internal Policy

Switzerland gets cold feet on EU treaty as Brexit talks raise ECJ spectre over the Swiss

SWITZERLAND has rejected closer ties with the European Union as Brexit talks reminds voters of problems with meddling foreign judges.

Brexit latest news EU talks treaty Switzerland tradeGETTY            Switzerland’s drive to make a treaty with the EU has run aground

The Swiss have faced mounting pressure from Brussels for a formal treaty to bring the nation under the remit of EU institutions including the European Court of Justice and state aid rules in exchange for more market access.The country is not formally part of the EU, but is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and has access to the single market.European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said a treaty is the only way to unlock further trade deals.

An agreement would clear the path towards closer integration in the fields of financial services and power markets, but the Swiss are wary.

Jean-Claude JunckerGETTY                    Jean-Claude Juncker and Angela Merkel said the treaty was the price of any more trade deals

But the country’s major parties have signalled they will not back any deeper ties, which has forced the prospective treaty to stall.The eurosceptic Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the country’s largest, has voiced its concern over allowing European Court of Justice (ECJ) the power to meddle in Swiss affairs and settle disputes.And the Christian Democrats (CVP) is opposing foreign judges deciding Switzerland’s future.

We will wait and see how the Brexit negotiations go and then perhaps adopt a position similar to the UK

Christian Democrats (CVP) leader Gerhard Pfister

Buckling under the pressure, the mainstream Conservative parties have fallen in line.Christian Democrats (CVP) leader Gerhard Pfister said: “The government has concluded that in a referendum-based democracy this ‘foreign judges’ solution – having the European Court of Justice mediate in disputes – is not winnable at the moment.”The CVP and pro-business Liberals (FDP) would leave any treaty dead in the water, as they both hold two seats apiece on the seven-member cabinet.

European Court of Justice GETTY – STOCK IMAGE              Swiss People’s Party has opposed any treaty that lets the European Court of Justice settle disputes

They are keen to continue with the status quo, relying on a jigsaw of more than 100 bilateral agreements which allow access to the single market.Amid the political mood pro-Europe Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter announced his resignation.The country operates on a system of direct democracy, and are reluctant to tackle any deals ahead of Britain’s divorce talks.

Mr Pfister suspected the EU was keen to conclude the treaty quickly so it can return its attention to Brexit talks.

But he is keen to wait and see how Brexit will play out, and what deal the UK will get.He said: “We will wait and see how the Brexit negotiations go and then perhaps adopt a position similar to the UK.”

Brexit latest news EU talksGETTY            Switzerland has been reluctant to follow through before Brexit talks start

Mr Pfister said Swiss President Doris Leuthard and President Juncker both agreed the prospects of a deal being reached by the end of this year were slim.But a European Commission spokeswoman said: “We are making good progress since the meeting between President Juncker and President Leuthard in April and are confident that if efforts continue from both sides in that sense, the agreed timetable can be met.”

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