07:25 GMT +319 October 2019
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    A national flag of Switzerland flies in front of a branch office of Swiss bank Credit Suisse in Luzern October 30, 2014

    Free Movement: Brexit Fallout Could See Swiss Lose Single Market Access

    © REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann
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    There are fears the EU could block Switzerland’s access to the European single market if the country pushes ahead with plans to impose immigration controls and other restrictions on the free movement of EU citizens, with the recent British exit from the EU further complicating talks.

    Swiss officials have been locked in talks with the EU for two years following Switzerland's 2014 referendum, where 50.3 percent of the population voted in favor of introducing quotas to control the country's immigration.

    The two parties have been locked in a stalemate over the talks, which are set to bring up the same issues involved in negotiating a British exit from the EU.

    ​Given that the Swiss referendum was legally binding, politicians must pass necessary laws by February 2017, leading to concerns the country may be locked out of the European single market or forced to fold on promises aimed at reducing immigration.

    Any Swiss attempts to introduce immigration quotas are likely to contradict the country's existing free market access agreement with the EU, opening up increased uncertainty over the country's economy.

    ​The EU has stated that without freedom of movement for its citizens, non-EU countries cannot have full access to the European single market.

    Fears Brexit Could Hurt Swiss Talks

    While previous talks were tense, there are now fresh fears in Switzerland that the EU will be less willing to provide concessions, in order to set an example to Britain.

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz said talks between the EU and Switzerland look set to be difficult, because "free movement of people now plays a bigger role, in light of the imminent Brexit negotiations," he said.

    ​"We have to find a solution with Switzerland because we need each other. I believe Switzerland [needs] the EU a bit more than the other way round."

    Many believe the Swiss issue will serve as a precursor to the UK's exit from the EU.

    While many pro-Brexit officials believe the UK will be able to maintain single market access despite introducing immigration controls, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi have warned that market access is only available for countries that accept the free movement of people, goods and capital.

    ​The Swiss impasse, and the country's need to introduce immigration legislation, has led to suggestions that a temporary solution with the EU may be needed to avoid breaching the February 2017 deadline.

    ​"Switzerland has signed binding agreements with the EU which only come under serious threat if we do not find an interim solution," Schulz said, noting that both parties "must go a bit further" in each other's direction if a deal is to be agreed upon.

    While Switzerland is part of the passport-free Schengen travel zone and has many bilateral agreements with the EU, it is not a member state of the bloc.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    single market access, Brexit, quotas, negotiations, referendum, immigration, European Parliament, European Union, Angela Merkel, Martin Schulz, Europe, United Kingdom, Switzerland
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