Do Swiss Francly Have it Better?

The Swiss Parliament have been clear about their stand on Europe; voting by a majority of 124 to 46 that their “forgotten” membership application should be retracted. Many people feel that Switzerland have “cherry picked” aspects of the European Union. In the 24 years it has taken Switzerland to vote No to EU membership the Swiss have built one of the most competitive economies, developed strong political relations with Brussels, currently ship over 50% of its exports to Europe, and are in a strong position to negotiate with the EU.

The Swiss have had their cake and eaten it says political analyst Dieter Freiburghaus. But Swiss businesses are far behind some of their EU counterparts when it comes to the European markets. Despite the long history of Swiss absence from EU negotiations they have signed up for the free movement of people and Schengen open borders. Fears that life outside the EU would isolate the UK politically and economically should be grounded in facts not rhetoric. Similarly, reasons for staying in the EU should be based on more than worry. Bloomberg say that the “UK has global clout without the EU—and would negotiate better trade treaties without being held back by EU protectionists.”

The Alpine country has had recent uncertainties over the sharp rise in the Swiss Franc and immigration challenges, but has shown resilience with its “remarkably robust” economy; growing 0.9 per cent in 2015. What is sometimes called “Brexit” has framed the leave campaign with a catchy slogan whilst concealing the major points of discussion in the run up to the UK’s EU referendum which include; trade, EU budget, regulation, immigration policy, and political influence. If the UK decides to quit the EU then it would be the beginning of what some are calling a political upheaval to ensure going it alone is viable.

The UK joined the EU 16 years after its conception in 1957. The EU formed to unify countries under one common market and political force on key issues such as; trade, human rights, and the environment. Each country that joins the EU gives away some of its political power in order to serve these fundamental interests, but with 8 eastern European countries being added to the UK’s 28-nation bloc in 2004; an influx of immigrants has left a strain on public services and the people of Briton wondering whether the trade offs are worth it. Champions of Europe point out that free movement has benefitted the UK in terms of access to skilled labour and global companies locate in the UK to tap into Europe, the UK’s largest export market, without tariffs.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that Swiss people earn 2.5 times more than in the UK—with entry-level professional salaries starting at £66,671—compared with the UK’s £27,199. Despite an improvement when reaching middle-management there is still a £40,000 gap between UK and Swiss base salaries. This year, Switzerland also topped worldwide patent applications. The European Patents Office (EPO) put Switzerland in first place followed by The Netherlands and Sweden. Silke Meyns, a patent specialist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich says that “we get very strong support from international corporations.”

Whilst polls suggest that voting to leave the EU is still the minority position favoured by Brits; the concerns about immigration, the economy, and the common market are growing ever more troubling by the day.


Photo credit

Tahir: Switzerland


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