Switzerland has indicated the UK could be an ally once Theresa May breaks free from the EU
Switzerland has indicated the UK could be an ally once Theresa May breaks free from the European Union’s shackles, as both would be outside the bloc.
The Swiss finance minister, Ueli Maurer, indicated the UK could “develop very positively” outside the EU post-Brexit, but added it could end up being a “serious competitor”.
Famed for its relaxed corporate tax regime, the landlocked country is an attractive base for businesses.
The UK’s main 20 per cent corporate rate compares with an average of 18 per cent across Switzerland.
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Switzerland is a prominent player in financial services, like the City of London, providing the potential for both nations to be allies outside the EU.
Mr Maurer said: “That is perhaps the chance – that we have a partner in the same position, which on important issues is close to us.”
His positive outlook for the future of the UK contrasts with many EU chiefs who have poured scorn on the future for the UK as Prime Minister Theresa May gears up to trigger Article 50.
Switzerland is a prominent player in financial services, like the City of London
Scheduled for Wednesday, this will begin the formal two-year process to leave the bloc.
Mr Maurer said: “The UK has lots of advantages and if they are used cleverly to decouple from the EU, as well as the new freedom in a good bilateral relationship, then the UK could develop very positively, I’m convinced of that.”
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If no favourable deal is struck, the tax rate could be dropped even lower to attract business, chancellor Philip Hammond has recently said.
This follows previous cuts to corporation tax, worrying the Swiss who see the UK as encroaching on their territory.
The finance minister said: “That worries us a little. The UK could suddenly become a serious competitor.”
But Switzerland is under pressure to reform its tax codes and end perks, with ministers coming up with a fresh deal where all companies paid the same rates.
The UK’s main 20 per cent corporate rate compares with an average of 18 per cent across Switzerland
The UK could suddenly become a serious competitor
This was rejected by the electorate in a referendum last month, forcing ministers to rethink proposals.
Mr Maurer said Bern would look at amending its tax proposals to avoid being blacklisted by other EU nations.
But he said: “We have to be a favourable tax location – otherwise we will be too expensive.”
Switzerland has attracted a raft of criticism lately after it introduced measures to curb the free movement of people, something Mr Maurer said the EU would be forced to address.
Despite not being fully signed up to the EU project, Switzerland enjoys perks and bilateral deals in exchange for certain arrangements, such as allowing the free movement of people.
The minister said: “The free movement of people is an issue that the EU has to solve.
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“They have to give countries more freedom, I believe, otherwise it could break up over this.
“The pressure is growing and so the EU will have to make certain concessions on favour of the member states.”
In 2014 the county voted for restrictions on immigrations from its European neighbours.