Unfortunately, Swiss Voters Have Backed Immigration Restrictions


Credit: kbrookes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Yesterday, 50.3 percent of Swiss voters backed a limit on immigration in a referendum. The vote nullifies the free movement of people between the European Union and Switzerland. According to the Associated Press, "The decision follows a successful last-minute campaign by nationalist groups that stoked fears of overpopulation and rising numbers of Muslims in the Alpine nation."

The euroskeptic nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP), the party with the most number of seats in the Federal Assembly, campaigned in favor of the immigration restriction.

Although not part of the E.U., Switzerland has adopted many of the the bloc's policies such as the free movement of people. Understandably, the result of the referendum have not been welcomed by Brussels, and the president of the European Parliament has said that Switzerland should expect treaties with the E.U. to be reviewed.

The Swiss vote is undoubtedly bad news for fans of the E.U., an organization that is rightly criticized for its undemocratic structure, subsidies, absurd bureaucracy, and fondness for regulation. However, euroskeptics of the classical liberal variety should not applaud Swiss immigration controls.

As City A.M.'s Allister Heath rightly points out, there are some aspects of the E.U. that are supported by classical liberal euroskeptics, such as "the free movement of goods, services, capital and people." Unfortunately, the Swiss voted against one of the few policies the E.U. should be praised for, the free movement of people.

The illiberal nature of the recently-approved Swiss immigration restrictions can be highlighted by those praising the vote.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the euroskeptic Dutch Party for Freedom who recently formed an informal alliance with Marine Le Pen of the French National Front, tweeted the following in response to news of the recent Swiss vote,"What the Swiss can do, we can do too: cut immigration and leave the EU. Fantastic!"

Marine Le Pen also tweeted her approved of the referendum result.

The National Front and the Party for Freedom are not sympathetic to classical liberalism, and are based on the worrying combination of xenophobia and nationalism.

Responding to news of the Swiss vote Nigel Farage, the leader of the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), said that "This is wonderful news for national sovereignty and freedom lovers throughout Europe." Of course, it's not "wonderful news" for "freedom lovers" if you believe that people should be free to move where they want in order to improve their lives.

As the European elections approach it should not be surprising if the Swiss People's Party, UKIP, the Party for Freedom, and the National Front use more of the sort of freedom rhetoric demonstrated by Farage. It's worth remembering that supporters of euroskeptic parties are very particular about the freedoms they approve of.

The Swiss vote may well be a blow to the to the E.U., but it was also a blow to those who support the free movement of people, one of the E.U.'s only good policies.