German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Britain should take a leaf out of Switzerland’s book on how to handle relations with the European Union, according to Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) on Sunday.
Switzerland has access to the European single market through a series of bilateral agreements and has skirted voters’ demand in a 2014 referendum for outright quotas on foreign workers by instead giving local people first crack at open jobs.
“Britons should take as an example how cleverly Switzerland has linked national sovereignty and close cooperation with the European Union,” NZZ quoted Schaeuble as saying in an emailed excerpt of an interview.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will quit the EU single market when it leaves the EU following a 2016 referendum, threatening withdrawal without any agreement with Brussels if she fails to win a good trade deal.
British finance minister Philip Hammond has said it is an “open question” whether migrants from the EU will enjoy easier access to Britain after Brexit than those from other parts of the world.
Schaeuble said he had “a lot of respect” for Switzerland, adding: “One has to tell the British government today: We live in the year 2017.”