Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect

Survey: Swiss optimistic about Brexit effect
Many Swiss reportedly now see Britain as an ally. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/AFP
Most Swiss now think Brexit will have a positive effect on Switzerland, according to a new survey.

The survey of 1,010 people, conducted by research institute gfs.bern on behalf of Swiss bank Credit Suisse, found that 55 percent of respondents think economic benefits are likely following Britain’s decision to leave the EU, with some even seeing “major benefits for the Swiss economy”.

Meanwhile 54 percent think Brexit will have a positive impact on the negotiations between Switzerland and the EU over Switzerland’s self-imposed requirement to implement immigration curbs by February 2017.

“Optimism is not only apparent among those who are fundamentally critical of the bilateral agreements, but also among those who support the agreements,” said Credit Suisse in a statement.

By contrast, under 30 percent of respondents thought Britain’s exit would have economic and political disadvantages for Switzerland, with less than ten percent fearing “major disadvantages”.

Only very few – under ten percent – had no opinion about Brexit’s affect on Switzerland, showing that the topic was “of high interest” in the country, said Lukas Golder, co-head of the gfs.bern institute.

Speaking to The Local, Golder said he was initially surprised by the level of optimism but then became “convinced that this result really represents what is happening in Switzerland”.

The survey was conducted over a three-week period following the Brexit referendum and showed optimism growing as time passed, he said.

“We saw that optimism was really rising and insecurity and pessimism were really reducing from week to week, first in the economic and [then] in the political context.”

While the survey did not question people about why they were optimistic, Golder said he thought the British decision was increasingly seen by many Swiss as vindicating Switzerland’s own position outside the EU.

Since the financial crisis “there was a high level of uncertainty in the identity of Switzerland,” he said, but that has strengthened in the last two years and now “we are quite convinced that our independent way is very successful”.

The country now feels it has “a real ally” in Great Britain, he added.

“[Initially] there was uncertainty because of Brexit and then people really formed their own opinions and this was more guided by their own optimism that Switzerland is on the right [path].”

Golder also said confidence was high among the Swiss public regarding the country’s negotiations with the EU, despite the fact they have been complicated by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

Switzerland has until February 2017 to find a way to implement the principle of immigration quotas, approved in a 2014 public vote, without contravening its bilateral agreement with the EU over the free movement of people.

The EU froze its negotiations with Switzerland while Britain decided its future, and since the shock result of the British referendum the alpine country has been unable to find a deal.

Many fear the EU is so preoccupied with the British question that Switzerland may not be able to find a mutually satisfactory deal before the February deadline, forcing the country to implement a unilateral solution which could then jeopardize Swiss-EU relations.

However the survey showed the “high level of self confidence the country has at the moment,” Golder told The Local.

“It’s not that they [the public] are not aware that there is a problem of negotiation, and maybe that these negotiations are even harder to have than before. People know that, but they still think that it needs both parties and that we have enough to offer so that the EU may really be ready to negotiate still.”

The Brexit opinion survey forms part of the wider Credit Suisse Worry Barometer, which collates annual data on the biggest worries of the Swiss population. The full survey will be published in November.

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