Tribune de Genève.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the eurosceptic UK independence party (UKIP), will visit Bern this Friday. The former commodity broker and member of the European Union (EU) parliament, co-chairs the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD) in Brussels.
Farage and his EFDD colleagues will meet Yves Nidegger, a member of the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) from Geneva. “They asked me to show them Swiss direct democracy. They want to know how Switzerland copes, even thrives outside the EU” explained Nidegger.
This is not an official visit and after the meeting the group will take an “ordinary” tour of the Swiss parliament. The timing of the visit chimes with Britain’s promised referendum on its membership of the EU next year. Switzerland is an oft cited example of life in Europe outside the EU so the UKIP leader is visiting to understand it better.
Various political scientists have categorised UKIP as a right-wing populist political party. In the UK’s 2015 general elections Farage failed to win a parliamentary seat. Despite winning a 12.7% share of votes in the election, UKIP won only one parliamentary seat (0.2% of seats).
Farage and his party would like the UK to leave the EU. His Facebook page carries the slogan “Say No, believe in Britain.”.
Both the UK and Switzerland wish to renegotiate rules relating to immigration. Since 9 February 2014, Bern has been focused on changing the rules around the free movement of EU nationals, while London is trying to agree restrictions on welfare for EU immigrants when they first arrive.
Britain’s impending referendum is a double edged sword for Switzerland. On one hand it helps that Switzerland is not alone trying to extract concessions from Brussels. On the other, Brussels will not want to seed ground to Switzerland for fear that it will embolden Britain in its demands.
Full Tribune de Genève article (in French)