Brexit holiday? UK PM Theresa May heads to Switzerland for 2-week break

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May visiting a joinery factory in London on August 3.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May visiting a joinery factory in London on August 3.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Theresa May has chosen to spend her summer holidays in Switzerland – a country held up by some Brexit advocates as a model for Britain’s future relationship with the European Union.  

“The Prime Minister will be taking a holiday in Switzerland and will be returning to the UK on August 24,” her office said in a statement on Thursday (Aug 11).

Mrs May has a busy calendar when she gets back, with the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China on Sept 4-5 where she is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

There she is also expected to discuss the future of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station project, which is led by French energy giant EDF but includes a third participation by Chinese business CGN.  

Britain’s Parliament also resumes on Sept 5 with a debate on an online petition calling for a second referendum.  

But before tackling the tough autumn agenda, Mrs May will escape to a country that she previously praised as a place where one could get some peace and quiet.  

The Prime Minister’s chosen destination – a non-EU country in the geographical heart of Europe – has not been lost on British media.  The Guardian said she would be flying to “neutral ground”.  

“The neutral symbolism may appeal to May for her first summer break since the EU referendum, though the strenuous walks and Alpine scenery are likely to be the main pull for the Prime Minister, a keen hiker,” the newspaper wrote.  

May in 2007 wrote in The Telegraph she first visited Switzerland 25 years earlier and found it “a wonderful summer destination” for walking. "The views are spectacular, the air is clear and you can get some peace and quiet," Mrs May wrote.

The model of Switzerland is one Britain will be looking at closely as it seeks to determine its own future relationship with the EU following the vote to leave the bloc.

Switzerland, along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is a member of the European Free Trade Association.

Its goods exporters enjoy tariff-free access to EU markets while it is also free to negotiate its own trade deals with non-EU countries. It has only limited access to the EU's services market, however, and almost none for financial services - a significant contributor to the British economy.

The newspaper on Thursday noted May would be the first British prime minister to holiday in Switzerland since Margaret Thatcher.  

“Mrs May and the late Baroness Thatcher’s choice of holiday destination is in stark contrast to that of former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair, who preferred warmer climates,” the newspaper wrote.  

Mr Cameron was photographed last week holidaying in Corsica; he resigned in June following the EU referendum.