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EU needs more flexible negotiation tactics: UBS chairman

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The European Union should stop dictating terms to Switzerland and start negotiating an acceptable compromise if it wants to find agreement on future ties, says UBS chairman Axel Weber.

In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, Weber said the current EU demands are unlikely to be approved by the Swiss people should they be put to a referendum. The EU and Switzerland, which is not a member of the 28-nation bloc, are locked in difficult negotiations over an institutional framework agreement aimed at cementing future ties. Current relations are covered by around 120 separate accords that have been negotiated since a 1992 referendum in the Alpine state rejected joining the European Economic Area.

Weber believes the EU stance is currently too rigid to allow a compromise that would be acceptable to Swiss voters. “The agreement, which the EU believes has been negotiated, has met with criticism from large sections of the Swiss population and would, in my opinion, have a difficult time in its current form in the event of a referendum,” he told the German-language newspaper.

Swiss voters could particularly object to the EU’s insistence on greater rights for cross-border workers, Weber said. The German national pointed out that Brexit negotiations are also hanging in the balance because the proposed deal may be unacceptable to the British parliament.

“If the EU wants to come up with a solution it has to put style and content to the test. At the moment, it seems more like dictating conditions than real negotiations,” said Weber.

Last month the Swiss government said it would put the proposed institutional framework to a public consultation before making a decision on whether to accept. As a result, the EU extended the Swiss stock market’s access to the EU market for another six months.

Weber, the former head of the German central bank, also said in the interview that he thought it unlikely that the Swiss National Bank would raise interest rates out of negative territory before 2020.

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