December 6, 2015 / 11:46 AM / in 2 years

Swiss should unilaterally restrict EU immigration, right wing leading figure says

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland should take unilateral action to restrict immigration from the European Union, the billionaire and leading right winger Christoph Blocher was quoted as telling a Swiss newspaper on Sunday.

Migrants are pictured at the Zentrum Juch camp for asylum seekers, during a media visit in Zurich November 5, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Blocher, 75, is a lead figure in the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which successfully championed a referendum for immigration quotas that, if implemented, would violate a bilateral pact guaranteeing freedom of movement for EU workers.

After months of negotiations, Brussels and Switzerland, which is not an EU member, are still deadlocked over how to implement the immigration vote.

On Friday, the government said it was pushing for a “safeguard clause” with the EU, which would cap immigration once it reached certain limits, without specifying what that limit would be. But it also threatened to impose unilateral curbs on immigration if no compromise is found.

“Unilateral implementation is the best solution,” Blocher was quoted as saying by the weekly paper SonntagsZeitung.

Around 1.3 million EU citizens already live in the wealthy Alpine confederation and 300,000 enter across the border daily to work. In 2014, nearly 111,000 nationals from the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein immigrated to Switzerland.

The immigration vote has jeopardized a host of other Swiss-EU treaties that govern bilateral economic ties and stand and fall together. The EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner.

A study commissioned by the government found exiting key bilateral pacts could cut output by up to 630 billion Swiss francs ($632 billion) by 2035, or as much as 7 percent of GDP.

Blocher was also critical of the government’s safeguard proposal.

“At the moment, the Federal Council’s blueprint only consists of the term ‘protection clause’,” Blocker said. “It is, however, lacking any content whatsoever.”

Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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