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With London and Brussels at loggerheads on the subject of a post-Brexit trade deal more than four years after the UK voted to leave the European Union, Roger Koeppel, a member of Switzerland’s National Council, believes the warning signs were there even then. Mr Koeppel was speaking in advance of a crunch referendum in his country later this month which will consider whether to stick with the EU’s rules on freedom of movement – or seek to renegotiate the treaty.
The 2014 referendum was likewise centred on the question of freedom of movement – and Mr Koeppel, a member of the Swiss People’s Party, said there were uncanny parallels with Brexit.
He explained: “The result was a bit like Brexit.
“All parties except one were against it, all the churches were against it, the Government was against it, the economists were against it, but the majority of the people, slightly over 50 percent, and the majority of our cantons said yes to limiting migration.
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“They accepted it but Parliament did not implement it.
“It’s the same as in Great Britain – the people said yes but the political establishment said we cannot do this.
“It was a big surprise that there was a yes.
“This new referendum is the result of the non-implementation of the old one.”
With the Brexit referendum still two years off, Mr Koeppel believes the vote had significance well beyond the borders of Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU.
He said: “This referendum was like the butterfly flapping its wings.
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“It was the first instance of the development of discontent of the people with the things related to the European Union and political internationalism.
“This led to Brexit and some people say to Trump being elected as well.
“They are all symptoms of the huge discontent of many people with the political establishment.”
Mr Koeppel has in the past likened euroscepticism to the Reformation which saw challenged the Catholic Church in the 16th century.
He explained: “It is a kind of political reformation.
“The church of Brussels, like the Church in the 16th century, just has too much power and tries to regulate too many things in the lives of people.
“So we have had a backlash against this detached church of Brussels.
“We see this with Brexit, and the rebellion in Switzerland.
“This is somehow a democratic reaction against policies which are see to be too much in the interests of international political elites, and not so much in the interests of people on the ground.”
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