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Swiss talks with the European Union about immigration restrictions mustn’t be impacted by the U.K.’s decision to leave the bloc, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
“In the EU, we should carry on negotiations with Switzerland in the same way as we would have if there were no question on Britain,” Merkel said after a meeting with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Amman in Berlin on Wednesday. “Switzerland has a right as a sovereign country with deep ties to the EU to be treated with its recommendations based on its own independent position and according to its wishes, without being placed in another context.”
Switzerland is attempting to implement a 2014 plebiscite that demands numerical restrictions for EU newcomers. Officials in Brussels have refused to renegotiate the immigration provision, and Britain’s decision to leave the bloc has limited the scope for concessions to Switzerland for fear it could be regarded as a precedent for negotiations with the U.K.
“I can only say that the German position hasn’t changed since the British referendum,” said Merkel, adding that she was “optimistic” about the Swiss talks. “We want a solution; we want a solution that of course comports with the freedom of movement. We’ve continued to cite fundamental freedoms to Britain. But to me these are two completely different instances.”
Schneider-Ammann, who is Switzerland’s economy minister and also holds the largely ceremonial role of president for 2016, said he’s confident that Swiss parliament will resolve the issue this year.
“Parliament is working intensively to conjure up a clever, smart, clear, acceptable solution,” he said.
By Patrick Donahue (Bloomberg)