Scientists for EU appears in the Guardian’s Occam’s Corner today, tackling the commonly cited example of Switzerland as a country that is independent and successful.
In the article, titled Brexit and science: let’s not make the same mistake as the Swiss, Scientists for EU’s Mike Galsworthy points to several factors that show how problematic curbing immigration has been for Switzerland.
Although true that the Swiss were to be allowed to participate in the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, without the need to adhere to EU freedom of movement principals, they held a referendum on immigration policy – much in the same way that many anti-EU voices wish that the UK would do if freed from those guiding EU principals.
The referendum saw the motion ‘against mass immigration’ passed, and immediately Switzerland was downgraded and its contribution to Horizon 2020 limited. Switzerland which had benefited greatly from previous collaborations with the EU was now cut out of several funding streams as well as integration and collaboration platforms like Erasmus +.
The Swiss have worked very hard at compensating for these losses, paying inefficient levels of funding themselves to make up for loss of integration. They have never managed to fully regain the investment in small to medium sized business, innovative startups and international exchange schemes.
Despite all their hard work, these workarounds are only ever temporary and Switzerland must continually strive to maintain them, never guaranteed of their future status.
As Mike points out, this serves a stark warning to the UK, not least because the Swiss referendum was voted through by the most slender of margins – around 20,000 people. In the aftermath, Swiss research leaders have lamented their lack of a strong, positive, public message in the run up to the vote. Scientists for EU will take this on board as we prepare for our own UK referendum.