Monday, 10 February 2014

Swiss referendum cracks Europe

Technically it was an "initiative" not a referendum, and it was passed by a tiny majority, and only a minority even voted, but yesterday (Sunday 9/Feb/14) the Swiss voted to end open immigration from EU countries and set quotas for immigrants.

One in four residents of Switzerland is an immigrant. This is a higher degree of swamping than any other European country has experienced. Fortunately for the Swiss, moving to Switzerland is one thing, but getting the nationality (and hence being able to vote in more immigrants) is much harder. It takes ten years to become Swiss and there are all sorts of hurdles to jump - they even ask your neighbours if you put the bins out on the right day and sweep away the snow diligently!

It seems from the pattern of voting that it is immigrants coming up from Italy who are the main cause for complaint. The cantons closest to Italy were the most opposed to immigration; those bordering France and Germany most in favour. Italy is the EU's open door from Africa. The Italian authorities have been overrun from North Africa and now simply issue documents to new arrivals and encourage them to head north to get them out of Italy.

By itself this vote means nothing. The Swiss will not implement the change for three years, but this could be the European Union's high watermark; the first time the "ever-closer-union" ratchet has slipped backwards.

The sponsors of the initiative, the Swiss Peoples' Party, is jubilant and their success may be infectious. Come May we have EU-wide elections for the European Parliament. In France the Front National (FN) under Marine Le Pen is riding a wave of popular support. At the French presidential election Mme Le Pen got 17.9% of the vote. The most recent opinion poll put the FN at 23%, and this is likely to rise given the Swiss result.

Of course over here UKIP is riding high and on Thursday we will see just how high. The Swiss lead may give them a boost as well.

1 comment:

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