Switzerland firmly rejects end of free movement with EU - projection

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Swiss voters rejected a proposal in a referendum to end an agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, according to TV projections.

The broadcaster SRF said voters would reject the plan by 63% to 37%.

The ballot papers are still counted and the final results are due within hours.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but currently accepts free movement to gain access to free trade and to work with Brussels in areas such as transport and education.

The proposal came from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and was a follow-up to a 2014 referendum on the introduction of quotas for immigrants from the EU, which was just passed.

  • The Swiss free movement vote explained
  • How the migrant crisis changed Europe

Proponents of the anti-free movement plan said it would allow Switzerland to control its borders and only choose the immigrants it wants.

Opponents argued that this would plunge a healthy economy into recession and deprive hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens of the freedom to live and work across Europe.

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionThe urge to abolish the agreement on freedom of movement comes from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party

People also voted on a number of other subjects.

They appear to have supported paternity leave for new fathers and turned down a proposal to make hunting protected species like wolves easier.

What are the possible consequences for Brexit?

The Swiss referendum was prepared before Great Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016.

The SVP has used arguments similar to Brexiteers to have more control over immigration in a country they say is becoming overcrowded and more expensive as a result.

But net migration to Switzerland is actually on the decline right now, and there is a feeling that voters are getting tired of the party’s anti-immigration message.

Imogen Foulkes, of the BBC in Geneva, says a resounding yes to the free movement of people could strengthen Brussels’ hand with London and signal the UK as to what compromises might be needed to reach a free trade agreement with the EU.

Timeline: Switzerland and EU

Image rightsGetty Images

1992: The Swiss vote 50.3% to 49.7% against joining the European Economic Area – first step towards EU membership

1992-2002: Switzerland then negotiates and signs the first bilateral agreements with the EU – they are interdependent and include the free movement of people – supported by a vote in 2000

2005: Swiss people agree to join the European Schengen Agreement on open borders and expand freedom of movement to 10 new EU states

2009: Voting to extend freedom of movement to new EU members Romania and Bulgaria

2014: Swiss quotas for EU workers slightly down

Related topics

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  • Switzerland
  • immigration
  • European Union
  • World trade