Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) have maintained close relations over many years founded on similar ideas in areas such as the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, social and economic order, and good governance and with a special focus on economic and financial market issues.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–the United Kingdom
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and the UK pursue similar foreign policy objectives in a variety of international forums, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe. In the last few years cooperation has concentrated on the following fields:
- promotion of human security
- conflict prevention and peacebuilding measures
- worldwide abolition of the death penalty
- regulation of private military and security companies
- prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction
- prevention of sexual violence in conflicts
Parliamentarians from Switzerland and the UK also conduct lively exchanges. One special event is the traditional, annual parliamentarians ski race in Davos (Switzerland), which will be held for 60th time in 2016.
Switzerland and the UK are major trading partners and have close economic ties. Liberal economic systems and open markets are high priorities for both countries.
In 2015 Swiss exports to the UK totalled CHF 13.1 billion and imports from the UK reached CHF 31 billion. Precious metals accounted for the largest share of imports. Excluding precious metals, imports from the UK amounted to CHF 6.6 billion. In terms of trading volume, the UK is Switzerland's third most important market including precious metals and sixth most important market excluding precious metals.
After the USA, Switzerland is the second most important market for the export of services from the UK. In 2014 Switzerland imported GBP 12.6 billion worth of services from the UK – GBP 3.6 billion more than all BRIC countries combined. Furthermore, in recent years Switzerland has ranked as the fastest growing market for services from the UK (in particular in the banking and insurance sectors).
In 2014 Swiss direct investments in the UK amounted to approximately GBP 43 billion (CHF 60 billion), with almost 100,000 jobs depending on Swiss investment (rank 5 among all states). UK investments in Switzerland amounted to CHF 25.7 billion.
Both Switzerland and the UK have strong and large financial centres. Accordingly, there are regular exchanges between supervisory authorities, central banks and banking associations.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Switzerland's dual vocational education and training system has been attracting increasingly strong interest in the UK in recent years. The embassy offers a platform for dialogue between specialists and governmental circles. In addition, it supports study visits to Switzerland and events in the UK (e.g. workshops, conferences and national prize awards) that convey the high value of vocational apprenticeships in Switzerland and their potential in the UK.
Switzerland and the UK have maintained close cultural ties for a long time. The embassy supports Swiss artists in many different projects in London, as well as as in other parts of the country. Switzerland is regularly represented at the UK's most important cultural festivals and art fairs, in particular the Edinburgh International Festival, the London Film Festival, the BBC Proms and the Frieze Art Fair.
Swiss nationals in the United Kingdom
33,745 Swiss nationals were registered with the Swiss embassy in London at the end of 2015.
In addition to the embassy in London, Switzerland has an honorary consulate-general in Edinburgh and honorary consulates in Manchester, Belfast, Cardiff, Hamilton (Bermuda), Gibraltar, Grand Cayman and St Peter Port (covering Guernsey and Jersey).
History of bilateral relations
The two states established diplomatic relations in 1891. During the Second World War, Switzerland represented British interests in Germany, Japan, Italy, France, China and other countries. In 1960, Switzerland and the UK founded together with some other European states the European Free Trade Association.
Relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom date back to the early Middle Ages when monks from the British Isles came to Switzerland as missionaries. Contacts between the two states also took place from the 15th century onwards in the form of Swiss mercenaries serving under the English flag. The Swiss mountains have always held a special fascination for many Britons. In 1863, a British travel agency carried out the first organised tour to Switzerland. This paved the way for tourism in Switzerland and at the same time provided an incentive for the construction of the railway network in Switzerland. British tourists still account for the third-largest group of foreign visitors to Switzerland today.