Voters in Switzerland were casting their ballots on Sunday on a nationalist party’s proposal to limit the number of European Union citizens allowed to live and work in the country.
Projections based on partial counts indicated that most voters had rejected the measure – championed by the populist Swiss People’s Party – according to public broadcaster SRF.
The measure had proposed giving preferential access to jobs, social protection and benefits to people from Switzerland over those from the 27-nation bloc that surrounds it.
If passed, the proposal would have further strained the rich Alpine’s country’s deep and lucrative ties to the EU, of which it is not a member.
It could also lead to reciprocal disadvantages for millions of Swiss citizens if they want to live or work in the EU.
Roughly 1.4 million EU citizens live in the country of about 8.2 million, while around 500,000 Swiss live in EU countries.
In a similar referendum in 2014, the Swiss narrowly voted in favour of limiting access of EU citizens to live and work in Switzerland.
If Switzerland had to withdraw or reduce these agreements (with the EU), I think we would be the real losersElisabeth Lopes
Politicians refused to fully implement the referendum fearing a hefty impact on Swiss society and businesses, prompting the People’s Party to get the issue back on the ballot again this year.
Since the last vote, Switzerland has witnessed the turmoil that Britain’s 2016 referendum to leave the European Union has caused, especially for EU citizens in the UK and Britons living on the continent.
Voter Yann Grote said he did not approve of further limiting freedom of movement.
“I’m not at all in favour, and even more now, because it’s not a time to isolate Switzerland,” he said.
Elisabeth Lopes agreed, saying: “I’m a daughter of immigrants, so it is a matter that touches me.
“If Switzerland had to withdraw or reduce these agreements (with the EU), I think we would be the real losers.”
The freedom-of-movement measure was being considered alongside nationwide votes on paternity leave, tax breaks for childcare, purchases of new fighter planes worth billions of pounds, and the right to hunt wolves to keep their population down.