Brexit: Expert discusses shortage of haulage drivers
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Sebastian Kurz offered his bizarre reasoning after Bern scrapped talks with the EU aimed at reaching a long-anticipated political treaty that would have covered trade between it and the 27-member bloc. The Swiss refused to bow to Brussels’ demands for the deal to include freedom of movement stipulations.
The failure to reach a deal throws into doubt the Swiss-EU goods-trading relationship which is worth €227billion (£195billion).
In an interview with Swiss news channel SRF, Mr Kurz expressed his disappointment over the lack of fruition from the discussions but stopped short of blaming either Switzerland or the EU for the dismal outcome.
Instead, he turned his attention to Britain and claimed the outcome of such talks would have been different if Britons hadn’t voted to leave the EU.
He said: “I don’t want to blame either side. The negotiations would probably have gone differently without Brexit.
“I hope that there won’t be a downward spiral – just because Brussels would have liked a different decision.”
He said despite the collapse of the seven-year treaty talks between Switzerland and the EU, Mr Kurz said he and his fellow European leaders to enjoy close relations with Bern.
He rejected the notion of pinpricks from the EU Commission in research cooperation, cooperation on electricity and updating bilateral agreements.
He said: “I don’t think so. Switzerland is an indispensable part of the European research landscape.
“I always reject needle sticks. We try to have a discussion at the level of the European Ministers or the Heads of State and Government.
“We want to continue the close cooperation, even if this framework agreement does not exist.”
He said while he found the outcome of the talks “regrettable” he said he was not surprised about the lack of a deal.
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He added: “Switzerland makes its own decisions. Austria will do everything to ensure that the relationship between Switzerland and the EU remains as close as possible.”
After the Swiss team called off the talks last week, the European Commission expressed its regret over the failed efforts.
In a statement, the body said: “We regret this decision, given the progress that has been made over the last years.”
Following the move, Switzerland will be downgraded to “third country” status.
This means the Swiss will need to appoint a representative within the bloc, meet the EU’s product labelling rules and grapple with other red tape.
The nation of 8.5 million is associated with the bloc through a series of bilateral treaties in which it has adopted various provisions of EU law.
These provisions enable Switzerland to participate in the Union’s single market, without joining as a member state.
The framework agreement had been intended as an all-encompassing treaty to replace the more than 120 individual bilateral agreements the country has with the continental trading bloc.
Switzerland is bordered by four EU nations – France, Italy, Germany and Austria – as well as its non-EU neighbour Liechtenstein.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
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