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Swiss lawmakers vote to pull forgotten EU application

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Photo: MPD01605/Flickr
16:16 CET+01:00
Switzerland's National Council voted to withdraw an application to join the EU, which many people were unaware had even been submitted.

As the debate over Brexit takes up much headline-space, Switzerland is often hailed as an example of a country doing just fine without the EU, so it may come as a surprise that the nation filed a membership application to join to the union.

The Swiss National Council, the lower house of the Federal Assembly, approved a motion submitted by Lukas Reimann from the Swiss People's Party (SVP) to withdraw the application. 126 of the 200 deputies voted in favour on Tuesday.

The motion, titled "EU membership - achieving clarity" will now be reviewed by the Senate, which has previously rejected similar motions.

In his statement, Reimann said that in negotiations Switzerland was treated as a country which wanted to join the EU, and said that it was "high time" to withdraw the application due to the upcoming talks on how to implement immigration curbs, 20 Minuten reported. These talks have been put on hold until after Britain's EU referendum has been held.

However, foreign minister Didier Burkhalter pointed out that the application has already been void since 1992. He labelled the motion "unnecessary", saying that Switzerland is not on the EU's list of official candidates and is considered by the Union to be an "independent, sovereign nation".

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In response to a poll by 20 Minuten, asking readers if they agreed with the move to withdraw, 21 percent of nearly 15,000 people responded: "We submitted a membership application? I didn't know that!"

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