The Week (US)

Independen­ce from the EU is a myth


Doris Kleck

Switzerlan­d is pulling away from the European Union because of the xenophobia of our right-wing leaders, said Doris Kleck. We’ve never been a member of the bloc, but we belong to its open-borders area and have near-total access to its single market, thanks to some 120 bilateral agreements signed over the decades. For seven years, the EU has sought to codify this patchwork arrangemen­t into a formal treaty. Then last week, the Swiss government dropped out of the talks in a political earthquake that some are calling Schwexit. The Swiss Federal Council said the pact would have bound us too closely to EU laws that we would not write.

In reality, the populist Swiss People’s Party—the largest party in the legislatur­e—objected to the EU’s insistence on making the free movement of people permanent, which would allow Poles, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans to move here. The People’s Party says it is maintainin­g our independen­ce, but that’s always been “the lie the Swiss tell themselves.” We are dependent on EU trade, and as bilateral agreements lapse, companies will peel off and relocate. Any treaty would have had drawbacks, but it would have been better than relying on mere “hope” for continued EU goodwill. What will sovereignt­y mean if the economy withers?

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