While the EU and the UK have made slow progress in Brexit talks over the last year, Switzerland also found itself frustrated by Brussels’ “dogmatic” approach. Switzerland spent much of 2019 working on a partnership treaty with the EU, but the country’s economy minister criticised the bloc’s stance. Guy Parmelin said he was pessimistic a deal could be reached as a result. He said: “We want a good solution that can win majority support, and that is not the case at the moment.
“I don’t think we can wrap up this year. Our agenda and that of the EU allow a conclusion only next year at the earliest.”
Mr Parmelin warned the EU that the stalemate could force Switzerland to look for new partners such as the UK.
He continued: “I think the EU would weaken itself if it no longer cooperated with Switzerland on research.
“We are then forced to seek alternatives, perhaps along with Britain, if the EU remains dogmatic.”
Then Swiss President Ueli Maurer also took issue with the bloc, but remained more confident a deal could be agreed.
Brexit news: Switzerland grew frustrated with the EU
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He said: “It does not matter whether it is autumn or next spring. We have time and we also need time so that we really have something that we can explain, we understand and that serves (the interests of) Switzerland.”
Brussels blocked EU-based investors from trading on Swiss bourses from July 1, 2019, as the row escalated over the treaty, which would have seen non-EU member Switzerland routinely adopt EU single market rules.
The Swiss retaliated by banning EU venues from hosting Swiss stock trading.
The Swiss will head to the polls on September 27 to decide whether or not the country should abandon a deal with the EU.
Brexit news: Ueli Maurer remained more optimistic
The referendum to abolish free movement of EU citizens across Switzerland represents a key moment in relations between Bern and Brussels, who have a chequered past.
The UK has encountered similar grievances in Brexit trade talks.
With two months to go until the EU-imposed deadline of October, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was “disappointed” with the deadlocked talks last week.
Mr Barnier added that “frankly I am disappointed and I am worried“ and “a little surprised” because Prime Minister Boris Johnson had told EU leaders earlier this summer he wanted an outline deal by July.
He continued: “Too often this week it felt as if we were going backwards more than forwards.”
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Mr Barnier also said that at this stage an agreement seemed “unlikely” and “I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time”.
His comments came after UK negotiator David Frost expressed his own feelings of frustration.
He said: “The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts.
“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress.”