The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) had imposed a binding referendum on the EU deal in an attempt to curb immigration to the country where foreigners make up a quarter of the population.
The measure has lost 62% to 38% margin.
The UDC – the largest party in parliament – has long insisted on taking back control of immigration, echoing some arguments used by pro-Brexit politicians in preparation for Britain’s exit from the EU. He won a referendum on the issue in 2014, only to see parliament water down its implementation.
Opponents said the plan would have deprived companies of skilled workers and torpedoed agreements that improve non-EU Switzerland’s access to the EU’s crucial single market.
About two-thirds of the 2.1 million foreigners living in Switzerland in 2019 were citizens of the EU, as well as of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which together with Switzerland are members of the European Association of free trade (EFTA).
More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.
The domestic political battle immediately turned into Switzerland’s biggest foreign policy puzzle: a stalled treaty meant to cement ties with the EU but which critics say undermines Swiss sovereignty too much. and would never win a referendum.
The treaty would oblige Berne to systematically adopt single market rules and create a new platform for resolving disputes.
With open questions about state aid, rules to protect high Swiss wages and access to social benefits, the Swiss dragged their feet while trying to forge a national consensus, sparking a dispute over stock transactions cross-border.
Amid a relatively high turnout, voters narrowly blocked an attempt to facilitate the shooting of wolves seen as a threat to livestock.
In a surprisingly close vote, they approved the government’s plan to buy new fighter jets for up to 6 billion Swiss francs ($ 6.46 billion).