Switzerland on Friday pulled back from its proposals to impose quotas on migration after an almost three-year tussle with the EU that laid bare the difficulties Britain will face in Brexit talks.
Switzerland and the European Commission have been locked in a battle of wills since February 2014, when Swiss voters sought to end “mass immigration” in a referendum. That direct challenge to one of the EU’s fundamental freedoms threatened to rupture the commercial ties that granted Switzerland access to the single market.
The Swiss negotiations have been closely watched as a template for upcoming Brexit talks.
On Friday, the Swiss parliament voted for new restrictions on EU residents in the labor market but without establishing quotas for EU workers in the country, which was a red line for the Commission.
“At first sight, the law appears to go in the right direction,” said Margaritis Schinas, the Commission’s spokesperson. “It is a good sign that the bill does not target any more quotas on the freedom of movement for EU citizens and it does not plan to restrict their access to the Swiss labor market.”
Opponents of the deal already announced they will launch a new initiative for a referendum.
The Union Démocratique du Centre, the Swiss populist party which triggered the referendum in 2014 blasted the “arrogant” parliamentary bill, saying in a statement “the freedom of movement agreement will aggravate social problems, poverty and the overpopulation of our beautiful country.”
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