ZURICH Nearly two out of three top executives want Switzerland to put ties with the European Union on a new footing by adopting a comprehensive treaty replacing the existing patchwork of bilateral sectoral accords, a survey by UBS has found.
The poll of 2,500 entrepreneurs and senior managers underscored the importance that Swiss business leaders assign to relations with their biggest export market even as Britain's vote to leave the bloc undermines some EU cohesion.
It also shows a split between business and right-wing political parties that oppose ceding too much power to the EU under a treaty that would make Switzerland automatically adopt EU rules with an EU court as dispute referee.
The survey released on Monday showed 65 percent of respondents want an institutional framework agreement with the EU, 27 percent favor keeping the existing bilateral accords, and 8 percent back scrapping the bilateral agreements.
The existing accords ease Swiss access to the single market in return for letting EU citizens move freely to Switzerland. The Swiss parliament last year dodged a conflict with Brussels by adopting a system that aims to curb immigration by giving local people first crack at open jobs, skirting voters' demand for outright quotas in a binding 2014 referendum.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said last week after meeting Swiss President Doris Leuthard that a treaty could be ready by year's end.
Getting it through the Swiss parliament, however, could be difficult.
Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has said pushing through a new treaty -- as demanded by Brussels and EU members -- is politically impossible in Switzerland at the moment, but the government is still leaving the option open.
(Reporting by Michael Shields Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)