As expected, the Senate (the upper house of Swiss Parliament) again approved the UBS agreement on Wednesday. The vote goes back to the lower house (the National Council) for a re-vote. If the lower house rejects ratification a second time, it is dead. The vote must occur before June 18, 2010, which is the last day of the current session of Parliament.
The question in my mind is whether a sufficient number of “No” votes can be converted to “Yes” either because of loss of nerve or because of because of back-room deals. From the swissinfo.ch article which quotes one “Think of the children!” journalist after another:
The UBS deal is inevitably a bad deal, a bad deal to a bad situation. But it is too late to go back. And it is illusory to believe that it will be possible for the Swiss negotiators to go back to their American negotiating partners in the hope of finding a better solution,” wrote Le Temps’s Bernard Wuthrich.
“The spectacle provided by the House of Representatives is disconcerting. It feels like a schoolyard, despite the political and economic stakes being considerable.”
He notes that there is still time to find a way out of the impasse, but the centre-right parties need to play a part. “Perhaps it is not too late to negotiate one last time and, through unpleasant bartering, convince 20 to 30 parliamentarians to change their position.”
I do not pretend to know what is best for Switzerland, its banks, or its future. I am fond of the country, have visited many times, and enjoy my stay every time I go. Whatever happens in Parliament in the next few days is unlikely to have a substantial impact on my life.
My opinion, though, is that the Swiss reputation for utter reliability would be better served by adjusting its information-sharing policies from this date forward, and not making the change retroactive.