Brexit: Federal Council opens consultation proceedings on trade agreement between Switzerland and the UK

Bern, 15.05.2019 - On 15 May the Federal Council opened consultation proceedings on the trade agreement with the United Kingdom and on an additional agreement extending the provisions of the trade agreement to the Principality of Liechtenstein. The agreements are intended to ensure to a large extent the continuation of existing trade relations after the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The UK is one of Switzerland’s major trade partners. In 2018, it was the sixth largest export market for Swiss goods, valued at around CHF 8.8 billion. The close trade relations between the two countries are largely based on the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the European Union (EU), which will cease to apply to the UK when it leaves the EU.

The trade agreement signed by Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and the British Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, on 11 February to adopt to a large extent the rights and obligations concerning economic and trade relations that apply today under the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU. The agreement also provides for exploratory discussions on the future development of bilateral relations.

The heads of state and government of the EU member states have extended the date for the UK’s departure from the EU to 31 October. However, it is still not possible to exclude the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. The new trade agreement prevents the risk of a legal vacuum with regard to bilateral trade relations with the UK and, in view of the ongoing uncertainty, takes into account the various scenarios concerning future relations between the UK and the EU. In view of the fact that the actual date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is still open and that a disorderly withdrawal remains a possibility, the Federal Council plans to apply the agreement on a provisional basis if it proves necessary. The relevant parliamentary committees were consulted at the beginning of the year and approved this approach.

The consultation will end on 5 September. The Federal Council will submit a dispatch on the agreements to Parliament in the autumn.

Today’s decision forms part of the Federal Council’s ‘Mind the Gap’ strategy aimed at safeguarding as far as possible existing mutual rights and obligations beyond the UK’s

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