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Lionel Laurent

Switzerland's Stock Market Has Been Taken Hostage

The EU's use of threats over market access to get its way politically is becoming worryingly common. There's a warning for Brexit Britain here.

Last train to Zurich.

Last train to Zurich.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

An unnecessary and misguided economic split at the heart of Europe, driven by populist politics and trade spats. Nope, this isn’t Brexit, it’s the bitter diplomatic standoff between Switzerland and the European Union. 

The small Alpine republic is at diplomatic loggerheads with its biggest trading partner over how to renegotiate and repackage the swathe of bilateral agreements that binds the Swiss economy to the bloc without it being a member. Brussels wants clearer terms of how Switzerland accesses the single market and for the country to offer more freedom of movement for EU citizens. Bern is trying to balance these demands against local anxieties about sovereignty, immigration, and the related fear about the pressure on wages and social services that might come with more migrant workers. The Brexit parallels have not been lost on Brussels, which wants a speedy resolution above all.