November 30, 2018 / 3:24 PM / 15 days ago

Swiss government to decide next week on draft EU treaty

FILE PHOTO: The Swiss Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) is pictured in Bern, Switzerland, July 2, 2018. Picture taken July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government will decide next Friday how to handle a draft treaty on future ties with the European Union, a spokesman said after a cabinet meeting on Friday.

He gave no details about Friday’s discussion of the pact, which Brussels has sought for a decade. Four years of negotiations have not yielded a breakthrough on a deal with Switzerland’s biggest trade partner.

A diplomatic source said the EU had given Bern until Dec. 7 to decide how to proceed.

Brussels has pressed Switzerland to agree a pact that would sit atop an existing patchwork of 120 sectoral accords and have the Swiss routinely adopt changes to EU single market rules.

But it has met opposition from both anti-EU far-right and normally pro-Europe center-left parties in Switzerland, leaving the four-party coalition to walk a delicate line as it balances commercial interests against Swiss sovereignty.

If talks fail, the sectoral accords would stay in effect but relations would suffer.

No deal would mean no increase in Swiss access to the single market, dashing hopes for a new electricity union. It could also endanger unfettered EU market access for Swiss makers of products such as medical devices.

The talks have been complicated by Britain’s separate negotiations on EU divorce terms, with the European Commission loath to be soft on non-member Switzerland for fear of providing ammunition to Brexiteers.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Williams

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