The Swiss Trade Association, an organisation representing Switzerland’s small and medium sized businesses (SME) reiterated on Wednesday that it rejects the upcoming referendum aimed at ending Switzerland’s agreement with the EU on the free movement of workers between Switzerland and the bloc.
The referendum, known as the Limitation Initiative, will be put to Swiss voters on 27 September 2020.
The referendum, which aims to allow Switzerland to control EU immigration without the restrictions imposed by a set of bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, was put forward by the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) in August 2018.
The vote was originally planned for 17 May 2020, but was pushed to 27 September 2020 because of Covid-19.
Free movement of EU workers is part of a bundle of agreements with the EU. The EU has repeatedly said Switzerland can not pick and choose the elements of the agreements it wants.
The Swiss Trade Association said that that the pandemic has shown the importance of being able to count on EU workers, particularly workers with specialised skills. Without free movement, it will be harder to recruit EU workers. It also worries that the bilateral agreements, which include trade, could unravel if the 27 September vote is successful.
Hans-Ulrich Bigler from the Swiss Trade Association said in a press release that the pandemic has been hard on SMEs “We need a big dose of vitamin pills, a revitalisation of the economy. Given the current situation, a political project such as the limitation initiative would be the exact opposite”, he said.
Daniela Schneeberger from the Swiss Trade Association said that the federal government and cantons have taken on a lot of debt and now is not the time for an experiment.
“The coronavirus crisis clearly showed that without specialised European personnel the Swiss health system would have quickly reached its limits”, said national council member Jacqueline de Quatro (PLR/VD).
The Swiss People’s Party thinks differently. It argues that limiting immigration would help reduce the unemployment created by the pandemic.