Swiss government approves trade agreement with Britain

The Swiss government's "Mind the Gap” strategy aims to guarantee as far as possible the mutual rights and obligations of citizens in all areas that currently link Switzerland and Britain Keystone

The Federal Council has approved the text of a trade agreement with Britain, aiming to maintain existing economic and trade relations with the country after it leaves the European Union (EU) – including in the event of a disorderly ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

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“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,” the government said in a statement on Friday. 

“If the transition period between the EU and Britain comes into effect on March 29 next year, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU will continue to apply between Switzerland and Britain.” 

Under this scenario, the text of the agreement approved by the government will serve as a basis for economic and trade relations between Switzerland and Britain after the transition period expires on December 31, 2020 or at a later date agreed between Britain 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 March 29 next year, and that no transition period would not come into effect,” the government acknowledged. 

In that event, the text of the agreement approved by the government makes it possible to replicate in substance the vast majority of trade agreements that currently regulate relations between Switzerland and Britain. 

If the relevant parliamentary committees, which will be consulted early next year, approve the agreement, it could be signed and enter into force from the date on which Britain leaves the EU. 

'Mind the Gap'

At present, relations between Switzerland and Britain are largely based on the bilateral agreements that exist between Switzerland and the EU, particularly on an economic and commercial level. 

In 2017, Britain was Switzerland’s sixth-largest export market (CHF11.4 billion or $11.43 billion) and its eighth-largest supplier (CHF6.1 billion of imports). 

In October 2016, the government adopted its “Mind the Gap” strategy aimed at guaranteeing as far as possible the mutual rights and obligations of citizens in all areas that currently link Switzerland and Britain. 


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