Switzerland to vote on five referendums

  Switzerland is set to vote today on five referendum questions including a proposal to end freedom of movement agreements

 

Swiss Denis Balibouse Reuters

Photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Switzerland is set to vote today on five referendum questions including a proposal to end freedom of movement agreements with the EU.

The EU referendum is being pushed by the right-wing populist People’s Party (SVP), Switzerland’s largest party. Backers argue that Switzerland cannot sustain the number of immigrants it currently has, which totals 2.1 million people or 25% of the country’s population. The Swiss Federal Council, business organisations and higher academic institutions in the country are fiercely opposed to the referendum, as they argue it would also take Switzerland out of the EU’s single market.

Polls show that the EU freedom of movement referendum will most likely fail, with 63% opposed to ending freedom of movement with the EU. The other four questions are much less controversial and likely to be approved. These include a vote on paternity leave and on updating the country’s fighter aircraft.

The economic uncertainty that an exit from the EU single market would bring, coupled with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely the driving force behind the referendum’s anticipated failure. Moreover, a yes vote would endanger Switzerland’s more than 120 bilateral treaties with the EU, which could further damage the economy. The SVP insists the EU will renegotiate but EU leaders are unlikely to do so especially given that Switzerland is not a member and, as Brexit negotiations have shown, the EU has not budged in granting access to the single market without the free movement of labour.