Switzerland slams the door on immigrants

The importance of Switzerland’s vote to reimpose quotas on EU immigration on Sunday “cannot be underestimated”, says Allister Heath in City AM. The referendum result, which was decided by just 50.3%, is a “major victory” for Eurosceptics who dislike every aspect of the EU. British Eurosceptics who want to renegotiate a new relationship with the bloc will “be watching carefully”.

As for Switzerland, the demand for housing will now fall – which is what voters wanted – but it will also be “hit by labour shortages, which could cut growth, push up wages, inflation and interest rates, further boosting the Swiss franc and hitting exports”.

Not so fast, says The Times. “It is likely that restrictions on dependants of foreign workers will fall foul of international law, so this case may now be heading for the courts. Retaliation by the EU is also likely.” There are around 100 bilateral agreements between the EU and Switzerland, so the EU’s “potential for leverage is high”.

Switzerland is heading for a “punch-up” with the EU, agrees Hamish McRae in The Independent. Relations are already “strained” because of Switzerland’s attractive tax regime for multinationals.

The country now stands accused of cherry-picking in relation to the EU and, technically, it can’t do that. “There is a clause in Switzerland’s EU agreement that means that cancelling any one part of the deal renders the other void.”

With the Swiss unemployment rate at 3.2%, compared to an EU average that is double that, Switzerland’s open-door policy has been a “great success”, says The Times. Since 2012, the population has risen by a million to eight million and some 20% are now foreigners. No wonder business is “deeply disturbed” by the vote.

As are the Swiss hospitals, schools and colleges, tourism and the building industry, which rely on EU workers, says Claudia Gnehm-Laubscher on The Guardian website. If one bilateral agreement is broken, the EU will deem the rest invalid too, with “potentially devastating” consequences.

The students on EU exchange programmes; the energy companies that want to sell storage capacity to the EU: their future is now called into question. If Britain, the Netherlands and other countries think they can copy the Swiss, “they are dreaming”.

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