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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom

Switzerland and the United Kingdom maintain relations at a variety of levels with particular emphasis being placed on economic and financial questions, where the two countries often pursue common interests.

Key aspects of diplomatic relations

Both the United Kingdom (UK) and Switzerland find themselves confronted by similar challenges as a result of globalisation and the redistribution of power at international level, and in many respects the foreign policy agendas of the two countries are closely related, as demonstrated by the alliances they frequently create in international forums. The following topics are important for both countries:

  • Promoting prosperity
  • Climate change
  • Countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Promotion of human security
  • Preventing conflict and promoting peace

Meetings and visits at the highest political level underline the importance attached to relations between the two countries: on 6.10.2011 Federal Councillor Widmer-Schlumpf signed the bilateral withholding tax agreement in London. In February 2012, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter met with David Lidington, Minister for Europe, in the margins of the Somalia conference, and received him for a working visit in Berne on 21.6.2012. In addition, during the Olympic Games in August 2012, Didier Burkhalter also met Foreign Minister William Hague.

Economic cooperation

A regular exchange takes place between regulators, the central banks and banking associations on questions that concern the two countries as financial centres. Traditionally Switzerland enjoys a surplus on its balance of trade with the UK; it is the fifth most important country of origin for British imports from outside the EU, and the fourth most important market for British exports outside the EU. In 2011, Swiss exports amounted to 9.9 billion CHF, and imports from the UK to Switzerland amounted to 6.3 billion CHF.

In 2010 Swiss companies employed approximately 292,000 people in the UK, and direct investment by Swiss companies in 2010 stood at CHF 79.2 billion. Worldwide the United Kingdom is the country with the third largest capital holding of Swiss companies. British direct investment in Switzerland amounted to 14.4 billion CHF in 2010. British companies employ around 8,000 people in Switzerland.

Cooperation in the domain of education

The UK is interested in the Swiss model of vocational training and is engaged in a dialogue with Switzerland about it. Switzerland supports an exchange between Swiss and British vocational training experts and in doing so is working to increase the level of importance attached to vocational training. In spring 2012, British politicians and journalists were invited to learn more about the Swiss dual training system.

Peacebuilding and human security

Switzerland and the UK work closely together, e.g.

  • in the regulation of private military and security companies
  • in the Human Rights Council in Geneva
  • in the reform of the European Court of Human Rights
  • on the Swiss initiative addressing the effects of armed violence on development ('Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development').
Swiss national in the United Kingdom

At the end of 2011 there were 29,778 Swiss nationals living in the United Kingdom, of whom around 9,000 were resident in London.

Alongside its embassy in London, Switzerland has an honorary general consulate in Edinburgh as well as (honorary) consulates in Manchester, Belfast (Northern Ireland), Cardiff (Wales), Hamilton (Bermuda), Gibraltar, Grand Cayman and in St. Peter Port (Guernsey and Jersey).

Cultural exchange

There is a long tradition of close cultural ties between Switzerland and the UK, and the goal is to convey an impression of the entire spectrum of Swiss art and culture. Each year Switzerland is represented at the most important festivals in the UK.

History of bilateral relations

Switzerland and the United Kingdom have enjoyed close bilateral relations since the 19th century: it was British mountaineers that turned the Swiss alps into a popular tourist destination. Since 1900, the United Kingdom has maintained 12 consulates in Switzerland, and during World War II, Switzerland represented British interests in Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Bulgaria, China, Romania, Thailand and Hungary.