Switzerland has done a reverse De Gaulle and said “nein, non, no” to a framework agreement with the EU.
For the Swiss the EU had made it clear that this means harder times for trade ahead as they have signalled reluctance to renew existing bilateral treaties as they expire without such a framework. However, it means that Switzerland has preserved its autonomy vis a vis EU regulations going forward. Trade offs mean that you have to take the rough with the smooth.
For the UK it will mean that there is potentially another lone wolf on the periphery of the EU for us to work closely with. Indeed, the return of Swiss stock trading to the City of London indicates that such a process is already underway. We hope this continues.
For the EU it is yet another country signalling discontent with being drawn ever further into a tight regulatory orbit. We have already written that the EU seems to struggle with the idea of neighbouring countries that don’t want to join the project. The Commission’s actions in relation to Horizon participation and medical equipment trade indicate that it is not going to be accommodating. If that is their chosen way forward then pro-EU sentiment in neighbouring countries (and unwilling countries within the EU) will surely diminish.
Overall we at EFTA4UK would like to see harmonious and stable relations across the European continent. All parties have lessons to learn and in the face of increasingly belligerent approaches to international relations from the likes of China, Russia and, of course, Belarus, the countries of the west need to work together and cooperate closely.
The EU delegation at the UN (@EU_UNGeneva) has the hashtag #MultilateralismMatters on its Twitter page. This is a perhaps lesson that the EU should learn itself.