Citizens’ rights deal signed between Swiss and British governments

Gattiker (right) and Britain's Heaton-Harris during the signing ceremony in the Swiss capital, Bern, on Monday. © Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

Switzerland and Britain have formalised a bilateral accord safeguarding existing rights of their citizens once Britain leaves the European Union.

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The agreement was signed in Bern on Monday by the state secretary in the Swiss justice ministry, Mario Gattiker, and the British parliamentary secretary in the Department for Exiting the European Union, Christopher Heaton-Harris.

It guarantees the rights obtained under the free movement of people accord between Switzerland and the EU, which came into force in 2002. The accord also regulates social security claims and the recognition of professional qualifications, the State Secretariat for Migration said.

The Swiss government approved the accord last December. It is expected to be applied from the beginning of 2021 following a transition period starting provisionally from March 30. It will come into immediate effect if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on March 29.

At the end of 2017, there were about 43,000 British nationals living in Switzerland, and about 34,500 Swiss residents in Britain.  

Research and export industry

The Swiss government says it wishes to “ensure that the existing mutual rights and obligations in its relationship with the United Kingdom will continue to apply as far as possible”. As part of its policy it plans to extend the rights in certain areas.

Both Switzerland’s engineering industry and the research community are concerned they might suffer important setbacks if no deals can be struck with Britain in the post-Brexit era.

Britain is among the top five markets for Swiss exports. 

Switzerland and Britain have already signed accords on road transport, air transport as well as trade and insurance.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government decided to set a maximum annual quota of 3,500 for new British immigrants wishing to work in Switzerland.

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