BERN Feb 17 Swiss banks risk being banned from
selling financial products to retail customers in Italy after
Swiss voters backed plans to limit immigration from the European
Union, Switzerland's top tax diplomat said on Monday.
Swiss relations with the EU were sent into a tailspin by the
referendum this month. Such an Italian ban would
be the most tangible example yet of how the poll result could
jeopardise Switzerland's market access to the bloc.
Italian officials made clear that they would block Swiss
banks from selling retail products to Italian clients unless
Switzerland ensures the free movement of people between the two
countries, according to Swiss diplomat Jacques de Watteville.
The Italian finance ministry was not immediately available
Swiss banks sell a variety of services into EU countries
aimed at wealthy clients, such as mutual funds and structured
products, but typically do not engage in high-street retail
banking such as mortgage lending outside Switzerland.
The warning by Italian officials was delivered to Swiss
representatives in Italy last week, said de Watteville,
Switzerland's state secretary for international financial and
"We have to find a solution to overcome this obstacle," he
told a media conference in Bern on Monday.
Market access for Switzerland and its banks represents key
leverage that EU states have over Switzerland. The 28-member
bloc said overnight it has postponed negotiations with
Switzerland on its participation in multibillion-dollar research
and educational schemes.
Italy appears to be making use of a provision that was left
up to individual EU member states when the bloc reached a deal
over broad reform of securities markets last month: regulating
access to retail clients by non-members.
The Swiss government has up to three years to translate the
referendum vote into law.
De Watteville's comments come as Bern and Rome continue
long-running negotiations aimed at disclosing Italian savers'
secret holdings in Swiss banks, flagged for conclusion by May.
(Additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte in Rome; Editing by