ZURICH (Reuters) – The new head of Switzerland’s powerful labour union federation rejected a draft treaty with the European Union and called for restarting negotiations with the country’s most important trading partner.
Opposition from labour, traditionally close to the Social Democrats in the four-party coalition in Bern, underscores the difficulty of implementing an accord that Brussels has demanded for a decade and that took more than four years to negotiate.
“This text is dead,” SGB head Pierre-Yves Maillard told the NZZ am Sonntag paper, saying labour could never accept diluting Swiss rules that protect Europe’s highest wages from cross-border competition or subjecting the rules to EU judges’ review.
“Ultimately there is no way around fresh negotiations,” he added.
The Swiss government has been holding consultations for months with domestic power brokers on how to proceed with the stalled treaty, which would have non-member Switzerland routinely adopt EU single market rules and have EU citizens in Switzerland enjoy the same rights as at home.
But the outcome is in doubt amid opposition from critics across the political spectrum who say the deal cementing enhanced Swiss access to the single market infringes too much on Swiss sovereignty.
Unlike Britain’s messy Brexit divorce from the EU, Switzerland has a patchwork of 120 sectoral accords that govern EU ties which would stay in place should the treaty get shot down.
But failure to move ahead could plunge bilateral ties into a new ice age, hit cross-border stock trading, and dash hopes for new initiatives such as an electricity union.
(Reporting by Michael Shields)