The United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union on 29 March next year. At present relations between Switzerland and the UK are largely based on the bilateral agreements that exist between Switzerland and the EU, particularly on an economic and commercial level. In 2017 the UK was Switzerland’s sixth largest export market (CHF 11.4 billion) and its eighth largest supplier (CHF 6.1 billion of imports).
In October 2016 the Federal Council adopted the ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy aimed at guaranteeing as far as possible the mutual rights and obligations in all areas that currently link Switzerland and the UK. At its meeting on 14 December, the Federal Council approved the text of a trade agreement with the UK which could serve as a basis for future economic and trade relations. This agreement guarantees, as far as possible, the continuation of the economic and commercial rights and obligations arising from the agreements between Switzerland and the EU, and provides for exploratory discussions aimed at developing these bilateral relations in the future.
If the transition period between the EU and the UK comes into effect on 29 March next year, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU will continue to apply between Switzerland and the UK. Under this scenario, the text of the agreement approved by the Federal Council will serve as a basis for economic and trade relations between Switzerland and the UK after the transition period expires on 31 December 2020 (or at a later date agreed between the UK and the EU), until such time as new trade agreements can be concluded between the parties.
However, there is a possibility that the UK may leave the EU in a disorderly manner (‘No deal’ scenario) on 29 March next year, and that no transition period would not come into effect. In that event, the text of the agreement approved by the Federal Council makes it possible to replicate in substance the vast majority of trade agreements that currently regulate relations between Switzerland and the UK. If the relevant parliamentary committees, which will be consulted early next year, approve the agreement, it could be signed and be applied from the date on which the UK leaves the EU.
Address for enquiries:
Fabian Maienfisch, Dep. Head, Communications, SECO, Tel.: +41 58 462 40 20