Brexit will ‘always be complex’ says Vale de Almeida
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Switzerland was dealt a blow this week after the EU barred it from its Horizon Europe funding. The planned scientific research initiative looks to help to raise science spending and subsequent research across the continent. While Switzerland isn’t an EU member, its special relationship to the bloc has seen it welcomed by Brussels into such schemes.
The country, surrounded by EU member states, has grown close to the bloc through a series of bilateral treaties, simultaneously remaining independent of it.
It is true that the country has adopted selected EU law in order to participate in the single market.
But this has largely been interpreted as overwhelmingly beneficial to Switzerland.
Earlier this year, Clive H Church, a professor in European studies, revealed how the UK could be in for years of negotiations that might end in a Swiss-style relationship with the EU.
At the time of the Brexit referendum, there was much talk of the UK following the Swiss model.
An emergence of doubt from Brexiteers and those in power like Theresa May saw the Swiss approach fizzle out.
Yet, Professor Church said that now a deal has been struck, “people are again talking about Switzerland”.
Writing in a blog post for the London School of Economics (LSE), he continued: “This is not a matter of urging the UK to do what Switzerland has done, but rather an emerging realisation that, deliberate or not, there are possible similarities between the process which is likely to emerge from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and the way the Swiss have conducted their relations with the Union.”
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By his account, such similarities are likely to increase with time, although it is worth noting that Switzerland recently decided against years-long negotiations with the EU on a comprehensive package of bilateral accords.
Prof Church said: “It could also be said that the general political situation the UK will find itself in is close to that endured by the Swiss for nearly 30 years. And other suggestions have been made that the UK’s situation could be improved by following Swiss economic and other strategies.
“In other words, the UK seems to be on a Swiss-style road.”
If true, the UK might strike agreements with the EU similar to those seen between Switzerland and the EU like its participation in Schengen and Dublin, and on taxation of savings, processed agricultural products, statistics, combating fraud, participation in the EU Media Programme and the Environment Agency.
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There might also be future scope for things like EU education, professional training and youth programmes.
Overall, more than 100 bilateral agreements currently exist between the EU and Switzerland.
But the on-going implementation of these agreements obliges Switzerland to take over relevant EU legislation in the covered sectors.
This could prove a sticking point for the UK.
Prof Church argues that the “thin” TCA signed in December will likely be to the detriment of the UK’s standing.
Similarly, Timothy Garton Ash, the British historian, has said that while the UK might be “a Greater Switzerland with rockets”, it would still be likely to lose out to the EU and its powers of retaliation.
To get where it is today, Switzerland has been negotiating with the EU since 1993.
As Prof Church notes: “So, following the Swiss road may mean that, rather than having got Brexit done, the 24 December agreement might only be the start of a lengthy process.”
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