(Bloomberg) -- The Swiss government moved to end four years of negotiations with the European Union with an 11th hour attempt to salvage access to its most important trading partner, including cross-border equity trading in each other’s markets.
The government said on Friday it considered the outcome of the talks as broadly meeting Switzerland’s interests but, in the light of unresolved topics, had decided not to sign the proposal and further consult with “concerned parties.” Once the deal is approved by parliament it will almost certainly be subject to a popular referendum.
Brussels is using the recognition of Switzerland’s stock exchange as a bargaining chip and has threatened to cut off the bourses in Zurich and Bern from EU traders from January. The Swiss announced an emergency plan last week in a bid to prevent trading volumes from falling off a cliff.
The main areas being folded into one dynamic framework agreement include land and air transport, agriculture, agreement on technical barriers, movement of people, as well as future developments such as power market access.
Changes to EU law would not be automatically adopted and still follow Swiss approval procedures, which include popular referendums. Disputes will be settled in a jointly appointed arbitration court, while giving the European Court of Justice a consultative role.
By proposing looser limits for EU-based tradespeople taking on jobs across the border, the government is trying to accommodate demands from labor unions keen to protect Switzerland’s high wages. Still, the agreement is likely to be opposed by the EU-skeptic, anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the country’s most popular political party.
The negotiations for an overarching pact to replace the 120 bilateral accords on everything from civil aviation to immigration have started in 2014 and Brussels made it clear that they’re not extending the deadline beyond this year.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s term as president of the European Commission expires next year, and in an interview with broadcaster RTS he urged the Swiss to conclude the deal, saying “a year from now I won’t be there any more and you’ll see.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Mara Bernath in Zurich at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jan Dahinten at email@example.com
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.