Living in Switzerland and voting to Remain

June 14, 2016, 5 Comments

UK passportI am one of 41,577 British expats living in Switzerland. We live outside the European Union but our residency visas are based on us being EU citizens. If Britain votes to leave the EU, what happens to us?

That is just one of the many unanswered questions I have about the Leave campaign, a campaign that has absolutely no plan for what will happen if it wins the vote. No Brexit plan means that there are no answers for anyone wanting to know how it will affect their own lives. No Brexit plan also means that even the British Embassy in Bern cannot say what will happen to UK citizens living here once their visas expire.

Some Leave campaigners have said that our status will not change and that all will be fine. But they are the same people who believe that a country can have full access to the EU single market and not accept free movement of people. So I’m inclined not to believe their reassurances on the former as the latter is patently untrue.

In February 2014 Switzerland voted to introduce immigration controls on citizens from EU countries. That clearly goes against the free movement of people, which Switzerland is a part of despite not being an EU member – that’s the bit the Leave campaigners always wilfully ignore when they talk about Norway and Switzerland thriving outside the EU. Both countries do thrive but mainly because they have access to the single market, and in return accept the free movement of people. That’s why I’m allowed to live here and 32,848 Swiss can live in the UK.

Fast forward more than two years and the Swiss have still not found a way to square the circle: having immigration controls without losing access to the single market. In other words, how to have your cake and eat it. A post-Brexit UK would face the same conundrum, unless it wanted to abandon the single market altogether, and so risk losing 500 million customers as well as foreign companies who invest in Britain because it is in the EU.

Immigration vs the economy is the central battle of the referendum campaign. You could lost in the wealth of statistics, such as over half the net immigration into the UK comes from outside the EU, or EU immigrants paying far more in tax than they receive in benefits. Or even 44% of UK exports going to the EU, but only 8% of EU exports coming to the UK.

Beyond those two topics, there are plenty of valid facts about remaining in the EU – employment rights, safety standards, cheaper air fares, abolition of roaming charges, standing up to multinationals, working together rather than against each other – but they get lost in the mud of fiction about straight bananas and £350 million a week.

The simple thing is that I want to remain. Not only to remain in Switzerland as an EU citizen, rather than as a third-nation national who has to worry about getting a visa every year and has no security. But also to remain a part of the EU, not isolated and nationalistic, pretending that we are better than our neighbours. Both countries have delusions of grandeur when it comes to the EU; both countries need the EU more than it needs them.

Luckily I am allowed to vote in the referendum as I have not been out of the UK for more than 15 years. Some will call me a hypocrite for leaving the UK and then voting to remain but I believe that Europe is stronger and more peaceful when it works together. Neither Switzerland nor Britain will benefit from a return to the nationalism and antagonism of the Thirties. The EU isn’t perfect but peace and prosperity do not happen by accident.

In the end it comes down to treating others the way you would like to be treated. A wise man said this to me: imagine if it were France wanting to leave. As the French walk out the door, they turn round and say to the other 27 countries, “Oh by the way, we might be out but we still want access to all the good bits like the single market and EU grants. We just don’t want to pay for it, either in money or in immigrants. Hope that’s ok!”

You can almost hear the British tabloids coming over all Marie Antoinette and screaming “Don’t let them have their cake!” and yet that it what those very same tabloids want for Britain. All the benefits, none of the costs. Except life isn’t like that.

So on 23 June I will vote to remain. There is no second chance.

5 Comments on "Living in Switzerland and voting to Remain"

  1. Ian Geoghegan Tuesday June 14th, 2016 at 11:09 PM · Reply

    We are not facing another year 2000 where all the hype was about the world coming to an end because all the computers would not be able to cope with the new date! Well nothing happened then and very little will end on the 23rd. We will still have trade deals with the EU as neither side can afford not to trade with each other.

    Our trade with the rest of the world will continue and if our government is not preparing for the possibility of an out vote then perhaps we need another government. At least it will be one we have voted in!

    What the expats seem to not appreciate is how migration is affecting our services, do they know what is like to wait 2 or 3 weeks to get an appointment for their doctor or how difficult it is to get decent housing or how difficult it is to get a school of their choice for their children I doubt it very much.

    Our NHS is stretched to breaking point and the whole infrastructure of the country is in jeopardy.

    Not all of our problems are due to immigration but we need to sort our own house out before we start inviting people to come and live here.

    We need to take back our sovereignty and govern ourselves, we do not need unknown eurocrats making laws which affect us, we are more than capable of passing our own laws.

    If you have chosen to live in Switzerland and have chosen to make it your home should you really be meddling in the affairs of another Country?

    • RIbbon Thursday September 10th, 2020 at 04:24 PM · Reply

      Your first point is irrelevant, as it has nothing to do with politics or trade or immigration or anything.

      Your second point isn’t fully graspable for me, though that may be because I lack some context.

      I’m no brit, however fewer immigrants means fewer tax payers and hence less healthcare and education. This is true anywhere where these are at least somewhat financed by the state. The same goes for housing, however the rise of flat prices everywhere would be a much likelier culprit when it comes to that problem, in fact foreigners will often have considerably more trouble to get a flat because of issues such as discrimination or nationalistic distrust and the rise in prices is mostly caused by investors, who use property to speculate instead of housing people. Granted, some of these are also foreigners but even so, Brexit won’t keep them out because they have the necessary funds. This is also true in Switzerland, where I’m from, by the way.

      I can’t really comment on the NHS except that they need tax payers as well.

      Like the article mentioned, over half of the people that migrate to Britain are from outside the EU, so they’ll still be coming. Plus the foreign workforce suddenly leaving will cause more problems than help solving them.

      Lawmaking isn’t something I can comment on except that you’d also be giving up the right to influence EU-laws (though personally I’m glad we got away from that as our democracy would not take kindly to that system. That means nothing for the brits though).

      The whole point he was making is that this directly concerns him and all the other expats, since their status is based on the UK’s treaties with the EU.

  2. William Tell Thursday June 30th, 2016 at 04:59 PM · Reply

    The EU supports big business and crushes the little man. Switzerland has to many asylum seekers because of weak EU borders. Nationalism is the best way forward. Being proud of one’s tribe. Cheap air fairs and cheap products does not build communities. One can’t force oneself on other countries. Visas are what people need so people will work to make their countries better. Go home and make England a place you want to live. Be proud to be British just as we are proud to be Swiss. The EU means people don’t appreciate the host country. It creates ghettoes. There are Portuguese ghettoes in Switzerland. People don’t want to put the effort in to make their countries better, so run away and leech off of prosperous countries.

    Standing up to multinational is protecting one’s culture and way of life not hopping around the world on cheap flights, spewing jet fuel in the air and letting overpaid EU politicians tell people in Switzerland they can’t control their borders while paying these mafia fat cats millions a year to have access to the single market. We should bypass these crooks, trade with the new free UK and decide who we want and don’t want flooding over our borders.

    There is nothing good about being in the EU apart from a lot of cheap shit sold in the shops. When I was young in Bern it was quality not quantity. Quality wooden toys, people knitted and repaired things. We felt a sense of community. Now gradually more shitty products, more people coming in and trying to turn our country into a hotel.

    If you want to stop multinational thinking go home and get involved in your own country and community and make it a better place. The globalist agenda is to destroy nationalism, destroy communities with mass immigration so they can control the banks centrally and have more power. Small communities and separate countries are a threat to this. People can still get along and trade without the EU. And maybe people will appreciate where they live more if they don’t have the ability to just stomp into communities without being invited.

    Small self-sufficient countries that don’t pay the EU mafia are a threat to the political class. The Rothschild’s can’t get rich if food is produced locally and mass immigration is stopped. They want to stick their slimy fingers wherever they can.

    Tribal people in the rainforest have been ruined by the same thinking you support. The self-entitled right that one can travel anywhere in Europe and force oneself on communities,

    • Ribbon Thursday September 10th, 2020 at 05:20 PM · Reply

      We’re a landlocked island. We are extremely reliant on other countries to function properly and all our neighbouring countries are in the EU. There is so much more to address. Progress is unstoppable, nationalism or no, those who have an actual say in decisions have more power than those who isolate themselves, etc. but honestly, the amount of things is just too staggering, so I’ll leave you with this.

  3. Jon Wednesday August 31st, 2016 at 09:12 AM · Reply

    Oh fuck me another Remoaner moaning ….. we are not citizens of the EU you ballooned (not the one touching new haricut)

    Get a grip ……..

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