Swiss told to ‘be patient’ over UK trade deal

For London, Brussels takes priority over Bern, according to the CBI's Paul Drechsler Keystone

Those hoping for a speedy free trade deal between Britain and Switzerland shouldn’t hold their breath – Brussels takes priority for the British, according to the head of one of Britain’s largest business organisations.

This content was published on February 13, 2017 minutes and agencies/ts,

“A trade deal [with Switzerland] would certainly be desirable, but first we have to sort out our relationship with the European Union,” Paul Drechsler, president of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Monday.

Switzerland, Britain’s tenth-largest trading partner, would have to be patient, he said.

“Switzerland has the best of all possible relations with the EU and Britain can learn from that,” Drechsler said, adding that Brexit would result in the greatest negotiations of economic policy since the end of the Soviet Union.

On June 23, 51.9% of British voters decided Britain should leave the EU. Exactly how this will happen is currently under heated discussion.

“For decades we’ve been working with contracts, treaties and regulations which we’re now all changing,” said the president of CBI, which represents around 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors employing nearly seven million people.

‘Political theatre’

Drechsler predicted that after the British government officially informs Brussels of its intention to leave the EU – possibly by the end of next month – a lot of “political theatre” and uncertainty would be seen since countries with the most influence in the EU, for example Germany and France, are holding elections this year.

During this period, he said he would turn to Switzerland, which, since an initiative was approved in February 2014 to curb EU immigration, has gone through a similar situation with Brussels.

“Thanks to its pragmatism, Switzerland has had a positive experience with this,” he told the Tages-Anzeiger.

“We need Europe in order to be strong ourselves,” he said. “That’s why turning our back on the EU completely is not an option.”

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