The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union ('Brexit') and the Federal Council's 'Mind the Gap' strategy

Brexit
© European Commission

In a referendum held by the British government on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of British voters voted in favour of leaving the European Union. On 29 March 2017, the British government officially notified the European Union of the UK's intention to leave the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Because relations between Switzerland and the EU are largely covered by the bilateral agreements concluded between Switzerland and the EU, Brexit also has consequences for Switzerland.

When the UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017, it set in motion a two-year period of negotiations over the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.  On 13 November 2018, negotiators concluded a draft agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The Council of the European Union approved the draft agreement on 21 November 2018. The draft agreement is still pending approval by the UK and the European Parliaments. In April 2019, the deadline for Brexit has been extended until 31 October 2019. Under certain conditions, the withdrawal date could be before this deadline. The withdrawal agreement envisages a transition period set to run from 29 March 2019 until at least 31 December 2020. During this period, the United Kingdom will continue to be part of the single market and the customs union.

The Federal Council is closely following the negotiations between the EU and the UK. The UK is an important economic, political and migratory partner for Switzerland. The main legal foundations underpinning relations between the two countries are currently the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU, which will have to be replaced once the UK leaves the EU (possibly after the transition period). With this in mind, the Federal Council wishes to ensure that  existing mutual rights and obligations will continue to apply after the UK leaves the EU, and if possible also to extend these rights and obligations ('Mind the Gap' strategy).

The Federal Council is pursuing its 'Mind the Gap' strategy independently of developments in Switzerland's relations with the EU, which are of vital importance to Switzerland. In the context of the 'Mind the Gap' strategy, Switzerland and the UK have signed a series of agreements providing for a smooth continuation of their bilateral relations in five areas after Brexit. In other domains, solutions were found which do not require the conclusion of an agreement.

Chronology

  • 10.07.2019: Signing of the temporary Agreement on mutual access to the respective labour market
  • 25.2.2019: Signing of the agreement on citizens' rights
  • 11.2.2019: Signing of the Trade Agreement
  • 25.1.2019: Signing of the Insurance Agreement and the Road Transport Agreement
  • 17.12.2018: Signing of the Air Transport Agreement