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Post-Brexit talks Swiss-British meeting focuses on free trade

On the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union, questions swirled around what would happen to Swiss-British relations. Johann Schneider-Ammann, centre, met with his British counterpart on Wednesday to discuss future trade agreements

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s president and Britain’s trade minister have met to discuss bilateral economic relations and the fallout from the Brexit vote, including Swiss experiences in negotiating free trade agreements with various partners from a position outside of the European Union. 

Johann Schneider-Ammann, who is Switzerland’s economics minister as well as its president for 2016, met with Britain’s Minister of State for Trade Policy, Lord Price, in Bern on Wednesday. According to the Swiss government, the two discussed Brexit’s impact on Britain’s trade policy as well as “maintaining and strengthening” relations between their governments. 

A task force led by the Swiss foreign ministry will examine and address trade loopholes left by the Brexit vote, a government statement added. That advisory group will specifically have to re-define agreements involving air transport, the movement of people and scientific cooperation in the coming weeks and months. 

Since voting to leave the European Union in June, Britain has been looking to Switzerland as an example of how to negotiate bilateral trade accords with the 28-nation bloc as a non-member. However, Switzerland’s own bilateral relations with the EU are currently at risk due to a February 2014 vote to curb immigration from the rest of Europe. The free movement of people across European borders is a cornerstone of EU policy and its relationship with Switzerland. 

Britain was Switzerland’s third-largest market trading partner as of 2015. Some 34,000 Swiss nationals live in Britain, while 41,000 British nationals live in Switzerland.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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