The Swiss government on Tuesday urged voters to reject a referendum push by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to end a pact with the European Union on the free movement of citizens. Should the measure win a binding vote on May 17, the country risks losing its privileged access to the EU single market that is the lifeblood of the export-led Swiss economy.
The referendum is being called Switzerland’s ‘Brexit moment,’ Reuters said. It could also end up kicking neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, out of the Schengen system of passport-free travel and the Dublin accord on handling asylum requests, officials said in a statement ahead of a news conference.
“That would have painful consequences, primarily for security and asylum issues but also for border traffic and freedom to travel,” the government said.
The referendum drive reflects unease with the influx of foreigners. Immigration contributed a net 55,000 people last year. The foreign population stood at 2.1 million, or around a quarter of the overall 8.5 million.