Since the referendum in the UK on 23 June 2016 on the country’s withdrawal from the EU, the Federal Council has been monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis. On 29 March 2017 the UK government notified the European Council of its withdrawal from the EU, triggering article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This triggered a two-year period for negotiations with the EU on the conditions for withdrawal. At present the very close relations enjoyed by Switzerland and the UK are largely based on the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, these agreements will cease to apply to the relationship between Switzerland and the UK and will have to be replaced by new agreements.
Switzerland wishes to ensure that the existing mutual rights and obligations in its relationship with the UK will continue to apply wherever possible after the UK leaves the EU, and to possibly expand them in certain areas. If a withdrawal agreement is concluded (orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU), a transition period will begin on 29 March 2019, which will run until 31 December 2020. EU treaties with third countries such as Switzerland could continue to apply to the UK during the transition period. The Federal Council adopted its ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy early on, in October 2016, and has since been in regular contact with the UK. Preparations towards the future treaty relationship between Switzerland and the UK are already under way in areas including trade, migration, air and land transport, financial services and data security, and good progress has been made.