Switzerland is unlikely to sign its own trade agreement with the EU prior to Brexit, according to Economy Minister Guy Parmelin.
In a statement to Sonntags Zeitung, Parmelin expressed pessimism as social partners – unions, employers’ associations, and cantons – have been unable to come to a unified position that would allow negotiations to resume.
The failure to reach an agreement will prolong the current crisis in EU-Swiss relations: since July 1, EU companies are banned from floating their stocks in the Swiss Stock Exchange and Switzerland has retaliated in kind. [...]
There is fear of escalation as Brussels takes further steps to force Bern to sign onto an agreement negotiated over four years, but cannot be ratified, as in the case of the UK. The EU now threatening to ban Swiss research institutions from participating in research programs. [...]
According to Parmelin, a deal by October 31st – the day the UK is due to leave the EU is not likely for three reasons. First, the Swiss go to the polls in October; secondly, the new government in Bern must appoint a new negotiating team, whilst there is a change of guard at the European Commission itself. Last but not least, Switzerland is to hold a second referendum on the free movement of EU citizens early next year. [...]
Should the Euro-Swiss standoff escalate – resulting in Swiss institutions being excluded from all common research and mobility programs – Palmerin is threatening to seek alternative arrangements, perhaps in cooperation with the UK. However, he is also known to be sceptical of the British joining the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), as London would be likely to dominate the club.
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