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Bitter Macron ally furious as Switzerland ‘turns its back on Europe’ with £6.5bn snub

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Mr Beaune, France’s Minister for European Affairs, was speaking after the Swiss government yesterday confirmed its decision to invest £6.5billion in 36 F-35a combat aircraft and five Patriot surface-to-air missile systems. In doing so, Switzerland opted against the French Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornet, and Airbus’s Eurofighter Typhoon.

Switzerland has decidedly made the choice to turn its back on Europe

Clement Beaune

Mr Beaune, speaking days after Switzerland dumped France out of the European Championships after a penalty shootout, said: “Switzerland has decidedly made the choice to turn its back on Europe.”

Minister Florence Parly, France’s Armed Forces minister, also took a swipe at Switzerland in a press release issued shortly after the decision was announced.

Mrs Parly said she took “note of these sovereign decisions which reflect a choice in favour of non-European equipment”.

She pointedly emphasised “her full confidence in the quality of the equipment offered by the French industry”.

Explaining the decision, the Swiss Government explained in a statement: “The Federal Council is convinced that they are best suited to protect the Swiss population against air threats in the future.

“In terms of efficiency, the F-35A obtains the best result thanks to its significant technological advance over the other candidates.”

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In a direct response to Mr Beaune, Viola Amherd, the Federal Councillor in charge of Defence, added: “We would not have bought a Ferrari if a VW would do and the Ferrari would be three times more expensive,

“We are certainly not turning our backs on France.

“We are going to continue to work well together with France and I am assuming that France sees this the same way.”

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The decision drew instant criticism from anti-armaments campaigners and left-wing parties who will now launch a campaign for a referendum on the issue.

Priska Seiler Graf, a member of parliament for the left-of-centre Social Democrats (SP) said: “The decision is simply incomprehensible.
“It’s not just about buying them, but the upkeep and operating costs.

“We should seek a European solution – we don’t want to be dependent on the United States.”

Analysts have interpreted the decision to snub both the European fighter jet candidates and surface-to-air missile offering as a Swiss rebuff to the European Union in a time of strained relations between Bern and Brussels after the collapse of talks over a new agreement governing trade and other matters earlier this year.

However, the Swiss government risks antagonise the 49.8 percent of voters who opposed funding last year.

Anti-arms campaigners say Switzerland, which last fought a foreign war more than 200 years ago, has no need for cutting-edge fighter jets.

Advocates argue said Switzerland must be able to protect itself without relying on others.

Jonas Kampus, political secretary of the Group for a Switzerland without an Army, was confident of victory in a referendum against the F-35As.

He predicted the Swiss government “can expect a heavy defeat in the vote.

He added: “The follow-up polls in September (2020) showed a clear rejection of the F-35 among the voting population.”

Green Party politician Marionna Schlatter added: “The people don’t want a Ferrari in the air.”

(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)

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