Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The Swiss government has withdrawn from negotiations with the European Union amid strong domestic opposition to a pact that would have bound the country closer to its biggest trading partner.
Cross party critics claim the proposed agreement infringed Swiss sovereignty to an unacceptable degree.
For its part, the 27-member EU wants an overarching treaty to bind non-EU member Switzerland more closely to single market rules, including free movement of people, and provide a more effective way to resolve disputes.
The government concluded that substantial differences remained between Switzerland and the EU on key aspects of the agreement.
“The conditions are thus not met for the signing of the agreement," the government said after a cabinet meeting to plan the way forward in the long-running impasse with Brussels.
"The Federal Council, the government, today took the decision not to sign the agreement, and communicated this decision to the EU. This brings the negotiations on the draft treaty to a close."
EU-Swiss economic ties are now governed by more than 100 bilateral agreements stretching back to 1972 and fleshed out after Swiss voters in 1992 rejected membership in the European Economic Area. They remain in effect.
But refusing the proposed deal could over time disrupt and ultimately threaten Switzerland's de facto membership of the EU single market.
Failure to clinch the treaty, in negotiation since 2018, blocks Switzerland from any new access to the single market, such as an electricity union.
Existing accords will also lapse over time, such as an agreement on cross-border trade in medical technology products that came to an end this week.
The talks ran into trouble last month, when talks at a summit stalled and Swiss President Guy Parmelin referred to "fundamental differences" that remained.