Coffee House

The EU is eroding Swiss exceptionalism

4 April 2014

Even in Switzerland, the elites are sold on the European Union, though it remains outside. It has a virtually irresistible draw in all European countries for the people that Mr Gladstone disparaged as ‘the Upper Ten Thousand’ (who today probably add up to the Upper One Million). As a result, Switzerland is gradually allowing its exceptionalism — in tax and banking, for example — to be eroded. On the other hand, the Swiss people are stoutly sceptical and have become more so. In February, they voted for a referendum limiting the free movement of EU citizens into their country, and so their EU relationship is now in flux. In this remarkable country, only 5 per cent know the name of their president. This is not because they are indifferent to politics, but because most decisions are still taken at the most local level (the commune), and so the man at the top can be blessedly obscure.

This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes in this week’s Spectator.

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  • Terence Hale

    The EU is eroding Swiss exceptionalism. Switzerland’s relationship with the EU is a Cretan labyrinth of complexity. The most violent opposition comes from Hr. Blocher of the Swiss folks party (SVP) a “Maverick” of Swiss politics and his party’s Vice
    President. As an industrialist his company EMS-Chemie has around 60% of its business with the EU giving a contradiction to his violent opposition to the EU. The referendum where the Swiss voted to control immigration had more to do with what’s happening in Lampedusa and the over proportional representation of German academics on it high schools rather than xenophobia. As a mountainous people with a complicated federal democratic system not of contemporary EU standard thing are, and will stay complicated.

  • Graeme S

    the Swiss are not exceptional, in fact quit boring really. they do have some remarkable laws though , such as registered charities cannot be prosecuted fro corruption of fraud … the only reason sepp Blatter and his mates get away with larceny . Also for all its civilisation and culture it prolonged the 2nd world war by 18 months by supporting and supplying the Nazis with gold and raw materials. What hypocrisy, what moral cowards they are as a nation

  • Full Name

    Surely the freedom of movement of labour from 1957 for the 6 (?) founding members has not adapted to the new reality of 2014 ie 57 years or over half a century later of 28 divergent economies and economic cycles? Surely the freedom of movement is an attempt at improving the poor conditions for an “optimal currency union” in an effort for labour movement between localities during localized economic shocks across the region?

    Hence if you don’t have the EURO and you have a REFERENDUM – you can decide NOT to have 100% open borders would follow?

    But of course the “ever more powers” to the Federal Supranational Centralist EU atst as adding more countries to the Political ponzi scheme will fight such.

  • Clive Mather

    Switzerland hasn’t had a war for almost 2 centuries and is highly stable in spite of having 4 language groups in one small country. It is one of the most prosperous (in terms of GDP per head) countries in the world (and no, this wealth isn’t just from dodgy banking and tax avoidance – Switzerland like Germany is very good at manufacturing). Shouldn’t ‘Europe’ (the EU or more likely, a successor organisation) adopt the Swiss model rather than incorporate Switzerland into the undemocratic economic mess that is the present EU?
    Isn’t the lesson of Switzerland that far from war being prevented by wise leaders controlling the jingoistic masses, it is people power that prevents politicians using war as an extension of their own egos and aspirations (yes Tony Blair, I’m thinking of you!).

    • Andy

      Ah yes but the founding fathers of the EU realised that if they asked the people for permission to build their grand Fascist Union the people would, quite rightly, have told them to get stuffed. And that is why the people can never have a say and where, rather inconveniently, they have had to any ‘No’ vote has been unacceptable. The EU hasn’t prevented war in Europe – 100000 American troops and the British Army on the Rhine have done that ! – but what it is now doing is gradually driving the continent towards war.

      • Tom Tom

        Why was their a BAOR and SHAPE ? Surely it was Soviet Forces that also preserved the peace – Yugoslavia was not occupired by either Bloc and it collapsed into civil war when the dictator Broz died

        • Andy

          We all know that NATO ‘kept the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Soviets out’. Well the Americans and the British are leaving, the Germans rising and the Soviets are coming back. Game change.

      • Clive Mather

        Oh yes of course I realise that the EU and its ‘ancestors’ would never have deigned to consult the unwashed masses of Europe. Any top-down organisation favours structures that consolidate the position of arrogant bureaucrats and glorious leaders. My question was rhetorical. Any moves towards real (as opposed to parliamentary) democracy would have to come from mass opposition to ruling elites.

    • dado_trunking

      A Swiss militia was for sale for centuries – the Pope and Liechtenstein still benefit.

    • sfin

      Hear! Hear!

      I took early retirement from the armed forces, precisely because I realised that we were being used as an instrument of foreign policy and not as the last resort ‘failure of politics’ option.

      I believe Anthony Eden was the first modern British politician to do this – but it was revived, and how! by a certain Anthony Charles Lynton Blair – a politician I place in the pantheon of evil.

  • sfin

    Very short – but a brilliantly illuminating article which shows precisely how “representative democracy” is failing on this continent.

    Switzerland is the most directly democratic nation in Europe – the individual citizen has rights of petition and recall of his or her politicians, unlike any other country in our continent. The statistic, that only 5% of its citizens know the name of its president is just too delicious for words – God, how I wish!

    In Britain, the “mother of all parliaments” we don’t elect politicians to carry out our wishes. We elect politicians to do what they want on our behalf. This has led to political “spin” and “branding”, whereby, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the next person running this country will be a forty-something Oxbridge PPE or Law graduate, with a full head of hair and a neutral accent,pursuing a broadly social democratic agenda. Look at Nick Clegg in the recent debates with Nigel Farage…I mean, I’m sure he’s a pleasant, well educated young man – but would you follow any grand vision he has? Would you do the same with “Lord Snooty” Cameron, “Spaz” Milliband, or even “Bunter” Boris?

    We need a revolution in this country – albeit, a quiet, bloodless and typically British one.

    • Tom Tom

      Why should it be “bloodless” ? Real revolution is what 1642 heralded not 1689 which was simply the ruling class picking a new king

      • sfin

        Good question – and I still hold to the line “that we don’t do that excitable, continental nonsense, old boy!”.

        Even the (educated) French know that their revolution was just another, more dramatic, version of our supplanting James II with William (and Mary) of Orange. The only difference being the label attached to the movers and shakers (aristocracy v bourgeoisie). That, and the obvious lack of terror, blood, megalomania and all that other unpleasantness one associates with political upheaval from our continental neighbours.

        Over time, over the entire continent, the bourgeoisie won out – and have continued to hold sway up until very recently. The recent change has come about through the emergence of a professional political class. It is a class that thrives on the apathy of a well fed and diverted population – and is thus one that is doomed to failure – in my opinion.

        • Makroon

          If you wish to be taken seriously as a pukka Kipper, I think you should stop using silly and meaningless Marxist labels like “bourgeoisie”.

          • sfin

            I have no wish “to be taken seriously” as a “kipper”.

            What I will continue to do is carry on the great British tradition of using words from other languages, when traditional anglo saxon is too difficult or inelegant to express…

            …words like “bourgeoisie” (French) or your “Pukka” (Hindi/ Urdu).

    • dado_trunking

      You need to educate your people first before you can trust them. Take law enforcement off the streets and looters will be out and about in an instant (as proven on multiple occasions) – this would be an inconceivable scenario in Switzerland.

      • saffrin

        The result of immigration.
        Footage of the recent London riot showed 90% of participants were blacks and asians.

        • dado_trunking

          Oh dear – look at Swiss immigration.

          2011: the streets of Mancunia and Salford were white – Noonan, mate. you have no idea what actually went on
          1996: the IRA bomb – again, looters were indigenous.

          Your underclass is white – when will you suck it up?
          YOUR underclass is white. YOU are the underclass. The underclass are YOU.

          • superficial

            Unfortunately for your argument you didn’t bother to look into the instigators of any of these upsets…probably deliberately. In neither of these situations was there a white Briton starting it and, by the way, in the London riots the white Northerners did not get involved until days after black youths had started rioting and repeatedly caused massive upset for days on end. the Bomb was a sad state of affairs and rampant opportunism caused by a disgusting foreign act.
            The simple truth is that Saffrin is correct – without the black populous there would have been no riots instigated in 2011 or at broad water farm and the poll tax riots would have been massively reduced.
            Any point made should be based on proportions. ANY crime figures show that white British people cause FAR less crime proportionally and there is no CAPITALISATION that is going to mask that Dado lol.

            • dado_trunking

              I do not need to look at any ‘investigators’ of either events – I was there.

              • superficial

                “What you need to do is educate your people before you can trust them”
                LOL please just stop typing.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Charles Moore clearly recognises the existence of a transnational political elite whose loyalty to their respective home countries and their peoples is weak or non-existent; he clearly understands that most of the Swiss element of that transnational political elite would dearly love to join the local EU mainstream of that transnational political elite and the local EU mainstream would very much welcome that, and none of them are at all concerned by what their respective peoples may think about it; he must know that most of the UK branch of that transnational political elite are very much in favour of getting Switzerland into the EU, just as they are strongly in favour of almost any further expansion of the EU’s territory, so much so that when the Bill to approve the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU went through our Parliament it was congratulations all round, no need for a single formal division at any stage in either House, and who’s lined up to join next, how wonderful; and he must also know that even if the UK government didn’t want Switzerland to be bullied and crushed by the EU until the Swiss people finally gave in and gave their consent to their country being absorbed into the EU there would be little they could about changing the attitude of the EU because the UK now has only 8% of the votes in the Council of Ministers, 29 votes out of 352; we do not get more “clout” through the EU as Clegg was pretending, instead we lose our “clout” by placing it at the disposal of the EU, when it becomes part of the EU’s “clout” and we have minimal control over how it is then used by the EU; and yet despite his three decades of alleged “euroscepticism” Charles Moore now says that if it came to a referendum on whether we should stay in this system then his own vote would be “up for grabs”:

    • Rhoda Klapp8

      ‘Cos Chucky Moore is one of the upper million.

      When will they tell us the true reason for wanting to be in? It’s not trade or jobs, there isn’t anything we can’t get outside except the mild-mannered tyranny of international nanny telling us how it’s going to be.

    • Tom Tom

      Is the Swiss transnational elite actually Swiss ?

    • Mike Purves

      What a sentence! Are you channeling James Joyce?

  • dado_trunking

    Scotzerland is not an independent country.
    Without external currency influx and deposits the nation would be bankrupt.

  • Hello

    “Even in Switzerland, the elites are sold on the European Union, though it remains outside”

    Is that really true though? I think the issue is that no one wants to disagree because it might lose them leverage in the future. On the flip side, ganging up on someone that does disagree gains you leverage, because you become part of an even more exclusive inner circle.

    I don’t think they’re “sold” on the EU as such, I think they just assume that there is no advantage to not appearing to be sold on it. The prevailing assumption that the EU has ended war on the continent is a killer argument. What sort of person could disagree with that noble cause? No one that the elites would deal with, for sure.

    It’s what I’d call “ethical corruption”, the sort of corruption you can imagine The Guardian agreeing with. One of the better functions of democracy should be to stop it, so it’s a little ironic that democracy is being bypassed for exactly that reason.

    • HookesLaw

      I’m not sure I follow your logic but as of now the continued access of the Swiss to the EU market is in question and on hold. A clause in Switzerland’s package of agreements with the EU means that
      the one on immigration cannot be canceled without rendering the others
      null and void too.
      The Swiss referendum was passed I believe by just 20,000 and did not actually specify any limits. So it seems to me the Swiss are in a bit of a mess.
      The Swiss of course are not very popular because of all their tax laws and secret bank accounts and Germany and Italy are not very happy with them for just 2.

      What was it Harry Lime said about the Swiss? (well Orson Welles really)

      • Hello

        Yes, but only because the EU is ideologically committed to the idea of free movement of labour. It’s certainly not a requirement for a single market. In the absence of free movement, economies with saturated labour markets would be compelled to invest in the poorer countries within that single market, such as Poland, which would actually develop those countries faster and increase their productivity.

        I’m all in favour of free movement, but it’s not required and so the Swiss vote doesn’t have to mean much. The EU just knows that allowing Switzerland to get away with it would have the UK and other countries demanding the same, and that would unravel their project.

        So, let’s be clear, the Swiss agreement is being unravelled because of ideology.

        • Denis_Cooper

          Before it was written into the 1957 Treaty of Rome I doubt that many people thought that free trade in goods and services must necessarily imply free movement of persons between the trading partners. And nor does it to do so when we trade with countries such as China, we do not agree that in order to have the benefit of trading with China we must give every Chinese citizen the automatic right to come and live and work here. At least, it doesn’t do so formally, although Cameron seems intent on setting off a wave of Chinese immigration whether we like it or not.

        • Count Dooku

          The free movement of labour (if migrants are not entitled to welfare and they work) is a great boon for the host country and the migrant themselves from an economic point of view.
          You are right, their country of origin loses out.

          • Rhoda Klapp8

            Unlimited free movement? I don’t think the indigenes benefit from it much. There is a little more to life than the bottom line of multi-nationals.

            • Count Dooku

              Not unlimited, but definitely within countries that have a GDP per capita of 0.5 to 1.5 times of each other with a similar culture.

              The freedom if movement is just about the only good true free-market thing to come out of the EU. It allows labour to move to where it is most productive and also gives us cheaper goods. It’s not just multi-nationals that employ migrants.

              • Rhoda Klapp8

                Pay a migrant to work and a brit to stay on benefits. At the same time the immigrant if an EU citizen has almost the same rights as someone born in the UK. It isn’t the GDP, it’s the numbers. What works for limited numbers can fall down when anyone can decide to come here, unlimited. Every sympathy for an individual economic migrant but there is an impact on the natives which must be taken into account.

    • Tom Tom

      Which Swiss ? The Germans, the French ? They must be losing funds to Singapore and Hong Kong now they have rolled over for US and EU

    • Wessex Man

      The EU has ended war on the continent, what planet are you on? NATO ensured that there no major wars on the continent and now as the Americans become mors isolationist and we withdraw from our German Bases, Airhead EU Commisioners invite the Ukriane to join the mforment unrest and then bleat when Putin objects to their their idiotic Empire building!

  • greggf

    An exception that may become the rule….!

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