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BERN

Separatist Swiss region plans June 2020 Mouti-exit vote

Many in the town of Moutier have long sought to exit the canton of Bern and join neighbouring Jura. After a 2017 election was ruled invalid, the mayor has proposed another vote for mid-2020.

Separatist Swiss region plans June 2020 Mouti-exit vote
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The French-speaking Moutier has long been frustrated with its presence in the German-speaking canton of Bern. 

Described on social media as Mouxit or Mouti-exit – referencing Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union – tensions have been simmering ever since the Administrative Court in Bern declared a successful 2017 separatist vote invalid. 

The 2017 vote

Voters celebrated in 2017 after they decided by a narrow margin of 137 votes to leave Bern and join Jura. A total of approximately 4,000 citizens took part in the ballot. 

READ: Why the small Swiss town of Moutier is making headlines (again)

As reported by The Local in August 2019, the court invalidated the vote due to a number of concerns with its legitimacy. The court found evidence of ‘electoral tourism’ – i.e. that non-residents had voted in the election – as well as vote rigging. 

Another major reason for the declaration was the intimate involvement of Moutier’s mayor Marcel Winistoerfer in the campaign. Mayors and other public officials are required by law to remain neutral on such issues. 

No appeal to the court’s decision

Winistoerfer told Swiss newspaper Le Temps that there will be no appeal launched against the findings of the court. 

The “individual appellants to the Administrative Court have announced that we will refrain from bringing an action before the Federal Court”, Winistoerfer said. 

Winistoerfer and other Moutier separatists pointed out the delays associated with a court appeal – the last avenue of appeal is the federal court – were likely to be too long. 

Instead, a new vote will be held – this time without the irregularities that hampered the 2017 version. 

Separatist movements have also been seen in other parts of Bern, including Sorvillier and Belprahon, although residents in these two villages voted to stay. 

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BREXIT

Switzerland extends professional services deal with the UK

Switzerland and the UK have extended a deal that allows professionals special access to each other's markets until the end of 2025.

Switzerland extends professional services deal with the UK

Under the deal, Swiss and British service providers are given easier access to each others’ markets. 

“The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) maintains ease of access for service providers following the end of the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the UK with the latter’s withdrawal from the EU,” said a statement from the economic department at the Swiss Federal Council.

The deal “regulates market access and temporary stay for service providers such as business consultants, IT experts and engineers”, said the Council, adding that it “meets a need” in the Swiss economy. 

The temporary agreement, which came into force on January 1st 2021, is to be extended until the end of 2025. 

Under the deal, Switzerland grants UK professionals seeking to provide a service in Switzerland access for a maximum period of 90 days per calendar year.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED – What is Switzerland’s deal with the EU?

According to the Swiss Federal Council, more than 4,000 British suppliers have used the 90-day market access option to provide services in the Swiss market since 2021.

The deal also gives Swiss exporters “preferential access” to the UK market in over 30 service sectors, according to the Swiss Federal Council. 

In many sectors, service providers no longer need to prove they hold a university degree or have experience in order to be admitted to the UK market.

Meanwhile, some Swiss higher vocational education and training qualifications are now recognised by the UK as equivalent to a university degree. The UK has also simplified some of the procedures for obtaining a business visa.

According to the British government, Switzerland is the UK’s “sixth largest export market for services, worth over £12 billion in exports last year”.

In a statement the UK government said the deal provided certainty for firms in both countries. 

“Moving skilled people between countries is vital to services exports, facilitating the delivery of projects and face to face conversations that help to win new clients and get deals done,” said the UK government in a statement.

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