EU needs to be ‘flexible’ on border issue, says Swiss politician

Micheline Calmy-Rey, former Swiss president urges consideration of ‘pragmatic’ options

Switzerland’s former president Micheline Calmy-Rey, pictured in 2011. Photograph: AFP photo/pool/Cem Oksuz/Getty Images

Switzerland’s former president Micheline Calmy-Rey, pictured in 2011. Photograph: AFP photo/pool/Cem Oksuz/Getty Images

 

The EU needs to be “more flexible”and “find pragmatic solutions”to UK concerns about a border between Northern Ireland and Britain, Switzerland’s former president Micheline Calmy-Rey has said.

Speaking at a conference on Brexit in Dublin, the politician said that she understood how France might be unhappy with a border being imposed with Corsica or Spain with Catalonia.

She urged flexibility from Brussels on the UK opposition to the Border issue under the terms of the Brexit deal, rejected by Westminster.

The Swiss politician ruled out the border between Switzerland – neither a member of the EU nor the European Economic Area – and the EU as an option for the Northern Irish border because there were checks on some goods.

The UK, post-Brexit, and Switzerland were in a similar situation, she said at a conference on the UK’s departure from the EU held at DCU’s Brexit Institute.

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Brexit has “a merit” in forcing the EU and other European countries “to clarify and perhaps choose” between two visions of institutional integration on the continent of Europe, she said.

The EU could be more flexible and acknowledge diversity in Europe to break from the “binary model where you either in, a member of the European club, or you are out, not a member, and as such subject to pressure and discrimination,” she said.

“We feel subject to discrimination and we are under pressure,” she said, noting that just 10 per cent of the Swiss people supported joining the EU.

“It is not a war to be the biggest one,” she said.

Switzerland’s diversity and “institutional architecture could serve as an inspiration” for the future of Europe and the EU, she said.

The EU and Switzerland manage trade under 120 sector-by-sector agreements. Ms Calmy-Rey said negotiations to reach an “institutional” EU-Swiss trade deal had not found agreement after five years.

Switzerland considered the potential for the European Court of Justice having “the last word” on whether the Swiss were implementing EU laws under a trade agreement as “unacceptable”.

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