What have the UK and Switzerland agreed on trade post-Brexit?

Some interesting insights are in Swiss government information notes, prepared mainly for traders and producers

Swiss Parliament and government buildings, Bern

By Peter Ungphakorn

A summary of this is on the EU Relations Law blog, here

What have the UK and Switzerland agreed on their trade relationship post-Brexit? Essentially, they have been partly “rolling over” to the UK the present Swiss-EU trade relationship.

EU agreements are being “rolled over” into UK agreements in order to allow as much continuity as possible for trade and for business. They are called “continuity agreements”.

Below are an introduction to the provisions on goods and services, followed by Swiss government summaries of key parts of its agreements with the UK, mainly on goods but also narrowly on services.

But first, some context and explanations.

Continuity agreements between the UK and Switzerland aim to roll over some of the many Swiss-EU bilateral deals. Information on them in trade and other areas can be found here, including a link to a regularly-updated 30-page list of current bilateral agreements.

A 33-slide summary of the bilateral agreements is here

Switzerland, with a population of only 8.6 million is one of Britain’s major trading partners, ranking fifth for services trade and in the top 10 for goods. Total trade in goods is around £19.5 billion per year (pre-COVID-19), and for services about £13.2 billion, according to the UK Office of National Statistics’ figures.

Switzerland ranks the UK as its third largest trading partner for goods. In general the UK is around the top three to seven for Swiss imports and exports, its imports from Britain dominated by gold.

The main roll-over agreement with Switzerland was originally “full continuity” — and only for goods.

That only applied during the Brexit transition (under the UK-EU Brexit Withdrawal Agreement), which ended on December 31, 2020.

During that time, the EU asked other free-trade-agreement countries to treat the UK as if it were an EU member.

The full list of Swiss-UK agreements (January 2021)

Trade Agreement, 11.02.2019 with correction, plus
 – decision by the joint Agriculture Committee, 04.01.2021 on organic labelling and recognition
 – a joint declaration on trilateral rules of origin
 – a memorandum of understanding on aiming to negotiate a new agreement in two years
 – agreement extending the Trade Agreement to Liechtenstein
Service Mobility Agreement, 14.12.2020
Agreement on scheduled air services, 17.12.2018
International Carriage of Passengers and Goods by Road, 25.01.2019
Agreement on direct insurance other than life assurance, 25.01.2019 and decision on the agreement

Agreement on citizens’ rights under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, 25.02.2019
MoU on Strengthening Police and other Law Enforcement Cooperation, 10.07.2019

Since then the roll-over on goods (see below) has been partial.

Switzerland’s deal with the EU has been explicitly incorporated into the UK-Switzerland Trade Agreement, with some adjustments. That means the new agreement is not a stand-alone document but one that relies on the original Swiss deals with the EU. A number of significant parts are then “disapplied”.

A few agreements have also been reached on services (next).

Switzerland has closer trade relations with the EU than Britain now does. For example Switzerland essentially follows the EU for veterinary and plant health standards and regulations.

This limits what London and Bern can agree when the UK wants to diverge from the EU, but in some cases could be convenient if the UK aligns with the EU.

On the other hand, because Switzerland does not have a comprehensive financial services agreement with the EU, it can negotiate a deal with Britain more easily. That has already started.

Introduction: goods and services

Like Switzerland’s agreements on services with the EU, its arrangements with Britain are thin. A handful of narrow continuity agreements are on services after the transition: on air transport, road transport, direct insurance (except life insurance), and mobility of services professionals.

The first three seem similar to the agreements with the EU that applied before Brexit.

The fourth and newest, on mobility of services professionals, is considerably more restricted than the Swiss-EU deal on freedom of movement of people.

It was announced by the UK and Switzerland on December 4, 2020, and signed on December 14. The agreement is temporary. It lasts for two years unless extended.

It is specifically on time-limited access of services personnel to each other’s markets (known as “mode 4” — presence or movement of “natural persons”), and some UK recognition of Swiss qualifications for services professionals.

Switzerland’s commitments for services professionals cover all services and are liberal, although immigration and labour laws apply.

The UK’s commitments are only those on a list in Annex 2 (“unbound” means no commitment to open up), with additional reservations in a number of sectors for contractual service providers and independent professionals — opportunities for independents are much more restricted.

For example the UK does not cover musicians, actors and others working in entertainment whether contractual or independent.

The UK also requires eligible professionals generally to have university degrees or equivalent, and visas are needed, costing £244 or more plus healthcare surcharge, up to £800 for “super priority”.

[The text on professionals’ mobility is available on the Swiss and UK government websites. Accompanying it is an exchange of letters on recognition of vocational qualifications — the UK “endeavours” to recognise Swiss vocational qualifications in the relevant services are equivalent to university degrees. The British government website has this fairly detailed explanation. A shorter Swiss explanation is here.]

Meanwhile, Britain and Switzerland have been talking about a new agreement on financial services since June 2020 (see statement). Their two finance ministers met (online) again on January 27, 2021, kicking off talks at officials level.

The UK said “negotiations are expected to cover a wide range of sectors such as insurance, banking, asset management and capital markets, including market infrastructure.”

Some Swiss commentators have described the talks as an “antidote to difficulties Switzerland has faced with the EU on financial services”.

It remains to be seen if WTO members query whether the limited coverage of services in the UK-Swiss deals complies with article 5 of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services, which requires bilateral liberalisation to have “substantial sectoral coverage”.

(To compare these with the EU-Switzerland agreements on services, applying to the UK before Brexit, see this presentation or dig down into the bilateral agreements themselves.)

See also this Twitter thread:

A Twitter thread on the services mobility agreement (and a UK faux pas on the Swiss flag)



Extracts from the UK House of Lords EU Select Committee report on the UK-Swiss agreement


15. The Trade Agreement transitions the annexes of the precursor EU-Swiss Agriculture Agreement on: (i) tariff rate quotas (TRQs); (ii) wine; (iii) spirits; (iv) marketing regulations for fruit and vegetables; and (v) geographical indications (GIs).  […]  TRQs have been resized based on a range of evidence, including historical usage data and trade flow data, to reflect that the UK is a smaller import/export market than the EU […].

16. The disapplied annexes concern organic products and sanitary and phytosanitary measures in relation to plant health, animal feed, seeds, and animal health and trade in animals and animal products. The parliamentary report observes that these annexes contain “requirements for equivalence or harmonisation with EU law and systems” that have made their immediate application impossible.

17. The disapplication of sanitary and phytosanitary provisions for the cited agricultural products does not in itself imply that trade in these products will have to stop. But facilitations provided under the precursor EU-Swiss Agreement may fall away. We note that guidance published by the Swiss Government indicates that, in a “no deal” scenario, Switzerland will only be able to accept imports of animals and animal products from the UK once the UK is ‘listed’ by the European Commission as a third country for animal health purposes. DIT officials confirmed this assessment.

18. The parliamentary report states that the provisions in the excluded annex on organic products “enable certified organic products to be labelled and sold to consumers in the UK and Switzerland”. […] DIT officials have confirmed that without a reciprocal arrangement, the UK will not be able to export products marketed as organic to Switzerland.


19. The Trade Agreement incorporates the Customs Security Agreement but disapplies it entirely. The parliamentary report explains that its application would require the UK to have an agreement with the EU on safety and security. […] We were informed that the UK would revisit its approach to transitioning this agreement once its relationship with the EU had been agreed.

20. […] We noted that most international agreements made provision for amendment and modification, but that it was far from clear in which circumstances such changes would be subject to the scrutiny procedures required by the CRAG Act. […] Given the lack of clarity identified above […], we remain concerned that significant amendments to agreements may be made without adequate parliamentary scrutiny. […].

21. The report also notes that […] that Switzerland will no longer recognise the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status of businesses accredited as AEOs in the UK. These businesses will therefore lose the benefits of participation in the AEO scheme, for example fewer controls at the Swiss border.

The main UK-Switzerland Trade Agreement is on goods. Unlike some of Britain’s other continuity agreements (for example with Japan), it does not contain long lists of tariffs. For industrial products — technically, customs HS codes Chapters 25 to 97 with some exception and a lot of complex conditions — the tariffs were phased out many years ago.

Agricultural goods were handled under Switzerland’s separate Agriculture Agreement with the EU (including another text on processed products). That is also incorporated into the British-Swiss Trade Agreement, complete with tariff quotas that are “resized” for UK-Switzerland trade, based on shares of EU quotas used, trade flows and other adjustments.

Confusingly the quota sizes on several of these are “unlimited”, essentially meaning duty-free with no quota. There are over 40 on imports into Switzerland (out of almost 100 “quotas”) and over 20 (out of over 50) on the UK side.

On March 13, 2019, the British House of Lords EU Select Committee published its own report on the Swiss-UK deal, available here, or directly as a web page here, or as a pdf file here.

The committee notes that the agreement “differs significantly from the precursor agreement to which the UK is party as an EU Member State.”

It concludes: “We are disappointed that the Government, in bringing forward the UK-Swiss Trade Agreement, has not provided an explanation of its plans for future UK-Swiss services trade, and call on it now to do so.”

And it suggests that the House of Lords might wish to debate the deal before ratification.

A reply from Baroness Fairhead of the International Trade Department on March 15 is here.

She did not address the issues raised in the committee’s comments about the Swiss agreement, except on scrutiny.

Below are a series of information notes prepared by the Swiss government, mainly for companies.

Most of them are on sections of what the British government ended up calling a “trade continuity agreement” after it had previously been a “transition” to an eventual deal.

What emerges is that in some areas, the continuity is complete, but not in a number of other important ones, including various non-tariff barriers.

(Skip these sources and jump to “key issues”.)

The text of the main Trade Agreement (goods), signed on February 11, 2019, can be found on the UK government website here and here (including explanatory memo and report to Parliament; the actual text is here. Altogether six new documents were released:
● the UK-Switzerland Trade Agreement itself
● a joint declaration on a trilateral approach to rules of origin (which would bring the EU in)
● an agreement on extending the deal to Liechtenstein
● a British explanatory memo
● a 4-page report submitted with the agreement to the British parliament
● a memorandum of understanding on future talks.

On the Swiss government’s website an explanation and links to all the main texts on goods and services are here; this page has additional memorandums and declarations; the main Trade Agreement is here; an FAQ is here. An earlier page for downloading the agreement, declaration on rules of origin, and Liechtenstein deal are here in French, German, Italian and English. The Swiss notes used below, now separated by subject, are available in English, French, German and Italian

Press releases of the February 11, 2019 signing are here (UK) and here (Swiss).

(See below for links to similar agreements with Norway and Iceland. See also an updated list of UK continuity agreements and other deals with non-EU countries.)

Key issues

Jump to:

Highway in sunset, with mountains in the background, assume European. Pexels CC0
Swiss-EU Free Trade AgreementBack to top

[My summaries in blue. Text copied from original note here]

The free trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU ceased to be applicable in dealings with the United Kingdom on 1 January 2021. The trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom provides for the existing mutual rights and obligations under the free trade agreement (FTA) between Switzerland and the EU to continue on a bilateral level. The provisions of the Switzerland-EU FTA (including Protocol No 2 on Trade in processed agricultural products) will therefore be incorporated into a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. This means that existing preferential customs tariffs will continue to apply between the two countries. These include duty-free admission of manufactured products (products of origin in HS sections 25-97, excluding individual products in nomenclature sections 35 and 38) and preferential treatment for processed and unprocessed agricultural goods.

For information relating to Protocol No 3 of the FTA (regarding rules of origin) see information note on Preferential Rules of Origin (Protocol No 3 FTA Switzerland-EU).

Piles of paper by Christa Dodoo on unsplash CC0
Preferential rules of origin (Protocol No 3 FTA)Back to top

[Applying PEM “as much as possible”. Cumulation of origin from several countries requires free trade agreements with each and identical rules of origin. This transitional arrangement lasts for three years. Need to ensure goods traded between UK and Switzerland under this do not end up in the EU. Text copied from original note here]

The trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom provides for the continuation of the rules of origin of the PEM Convention at bilateral level. However, the following changes apply.

Cumulation: In the case of raw materials originating in the EU, Swiss companies may cumulate the EU origin for exports to the United Kingdom or companies in the United Kingdom for exports to Switzerland, provided that a free trade agreement with rules of origin identical to those in the Switzerland-United Kingdom FTA or an agreement on mutual administrative assistance in customs matters exists between the United Kingdom and the EU. This arrangement will apply for a transitional period of three years. In order to be able to cumulate exports to the United Kingdom or Switzerland with materials from other contracting parties to the PEM Convention, a free trade agreement must exist between Switzerland and these contracting parties and/or the United Kingdom and these contracting parties with rules of origin identical to those in the Switzerland-United Kingdom FTA. However, for exports to the EU and the other contracting parties to the PEM Convention, cumulation with raw materials originating from the United Kingdom will only be possible if free trade agreements exist between all parties involved which provide for identical rules of origin with the corresponding possibilities for cumulation. Information on the United Kingdom’s free trade agreements with contracting parties to the PEM Convention can be found here.

Direct shipment: In contrast to the direct shipment rule contained in the PEM Convention, consignments can be split in a third country (e.g. in the EU). Swiss companies that store originating goods in distribution warehouses in the EU or another third country must ensure that those goods are stored duty unpaid if they are later to be transported to the United Kingdom.

Transitional provisions: For consignments exported in 2020 but which are cleared through customs in 2021, a proof of origin issued retrospectively by the exporter can be presented for preferential customs clearance for a period of 12 months. Such consignments must be provisionally customs cleared in Switzerland.

Custom House, Lower Thames Street, London: long-time home of HM Customs. Dhowes9 CC BY-SA 3.0
Custom House, London
Customs facilitation and customs securityBack to top

[After the Brexit transition, life gets pretty complicated. UK excluded from security area; checks needed. Text copied from original note here]

As long as there is no agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU along the lines of the existing customs facilitation and security agreement between Switzerland and the EU, the United Kingdom will no longer belong to the common security area between Switzerland, Norway and the EU, and has third-country status.

  • Consignments by land or air from Switzerland into the United Kingdom must be registered in advance with the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) in the same way as consignments to other third countries in accordance with the terms of the existing customs facilitation and security agreement. Any security checks will be conducted before the goods enter Switzerland.
  • From 1 July 2021, safety and security declarations will be required for imports into the United Kingdom. Details can be found in the Border Operating Model (section 3.1.5).
  • For consignments by land from the United Kingdom into Switzerland, the EU will require prior notification of consignments entering an EU country and will conduct security checks as necessary, as is the case for consignments from other third countries. Since the goods will then already be in the common security area, no further customs security measures will have to be taken when they are imported into Switzerland.
  • Consignments by air from the United Kingdom into Switzerland will have to be declared to the FCA prior to crossing the border, as is the case for consignments from other third countries under the terms of the existing customs facilitation and security agreement. Any security checks will take place after the arrival of the goods in Switzerland. However, further security controls will be waived if these goods are subsequently forwarded from an airport in Switzerland to the EU.
Swiss-France border at Bardonnex near Geneva
Switzerland-France border, Bardonnex near Geneva
Mutual administrative and legal assistance in customs mattersBack to top

[No change. Text copied from original note here]

The following agreements between Switzerland and the United Kingdom will continue to apply on a bilateral level:

  • The 2004 agreement between Switzerland and the EU on combating fraud;
  • The additional protocol between Switzerland and the EU on mutual assistance in customs matters;
  • Legal assistance in customs matters: the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the second additional protocol on the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.

This means that no changes are to be expected in mutual administrative and legal assistance either for government administration, private individuals or for businesses.

Microscope close up. CC0
Recognition in relation to conformity assessmentBack to top

[A lot of detail. Mutual recognition of conformity assessments continue in some sectors; others need bilateral agreement. Unilateral actions by the UK and Switzerland. Swiss action is temporary. Text copied from original note here]

By Panos Koutrakos:

The EU-Switzerland Mutual Recognition Agreement applies to twenty sectors, whereas the UK-Switzerland rollover Agreement applies only to three sectors (including motor vehicles).

This has been explained in the light the interdependencies with EU laws and systems. In other words, as Switzerland is committed to legislative equivalence with the EU, it cannot simultaneously commit to mutual recognition of UK practices, unless the latter also conform to the EU rules.

The ensuing gap would entail additional cost, due to further testing and certification requirements, for exporters, unless a decision taken by the Joint Committee (under Article 1(2)(b) of the UK-Switzerland Agreement) to apply the Agreement to the additional product sectors.

Such a decision would be predicated on an assessment of the level of divergence or alignment of the applicable technical regulations between Switzerland and the UK.

Given, however, the harmonisation between the EU and Swiss technical regulations, the UK-Swiss assessment would be based on an assessment of the alignment between the UK and EU rules over the product sectors currently not covered by the UK-Switzerland Agreement.

This is a tangible, and by no means isolated, example of how intrinsically linked the negotiations between the UK and third countries are with the UK-EU negotiations.

— by Professor Panos Koutrakos,
Monckton Chambers and City University of London,
EU Relations Law, June 19, 2020

Mutual recognition

As the United Kingdom has left the EU, the agreement between Switzerland and the EU on mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment (MRA)1 has ceased to apply in bilateral trade relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Under the trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom, the product chapters in the MRA on motor vehicles, good laboratory practice (GLP) and good manufacturing practice (GMP) for medicines and certification of batches will continue to apply.

In these three product sectors international agreements form the basis for technical requirements by which the United Kingdom is bound, despite no longer being a member of the EU.

Exports from Switzerland to Great Britain have to comply with British regulations. Exporting companies must also appoint a “UK responsible person”. Exports from Great Britain to Switzerland must meet Swiss requirements.

Unilateral measure by UK

In addition to the three product sectors in the Switzerland – United Kingdom trade agreement, the United Kingdom temporarily recognises all EU-recognised conformity assessments, i.e. also when conformity has been assessed by Swiss bodies recognised by the Swiss-EU MRA. More information on the United Kingdom’s temporary measure can be found on the United Kingdom government website.

Temporary unilateral measure by Switzerland

In order to avoid, to the extent possible, disruption in import of goods from the United Kingdom, the Swiss authorities will recognise the evidence of test reports and certificates of conformity issued by UK bodies. This temporary measure applies to 13 industrial product sectors whose technical requirements between Switzerland and the EU are deemed equivalent according to Article 1 paragraph 2 of the MRA between Switzerland and the EU.

The scope of the new official practice is limited exclusively to the import of products into Switzerland, which are not subject to an EU conformity assessment from the UK.

The Swiss authorities mentioned below will,

WHEREAS (1) the testing or conformity assessment procedures of the United Kingdom meet the Swiss requirements; (2) the United Kingdom bodies have qualifications equivalent to those required in Switzerland; and (3) the United Kingdom has taken certain measures in favour of Swiss operators

RECOGNISE test reports or certificates of conformity drawn up by a United Kingdom conformity assessment body

  • which is recognised under the Agreement on Mutual Recognition between Switzerland and the EU (MRA; SR 0.946.526.81) as of 31 December 2020, and
  • which operates at that date under the following legislations, recognised as equivalent to Swiss requirements in accordance with Article 1 paragraph 2 ARM.

[The document then continues with details for machines, personal protective equipment, toys, gas appliances, pressure vessels and pressure equipment, transportable pressure vessels, radio and telecommunications terminal equipment, equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, electromagnetic compatibility, construction machinery and equipment (noise emissions), measuring instruments, agricultural or forestry tractors, lifts, cableway installations.]

Products placed on the Swiss market in accordance with this official practice may bear the United Kingdom marking (“UKCA”) in accordance with United Kingdom legislation if they meet the British requirements. The Swiss sectoral provisions on mandatory markings are reserved.

The measure applies for 12 months from 1st January 2021.

Should significant changes occur, in particular with regard to the legislation or the implementation of legislation covered by this recognition, SECO will modify the above practice in agreement with the authorities concerned. This is an emergency measure in order to avoid a disruption of trade between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The provisions in the MRA Switzerland-EU regarding the marketing of products from the EU to Switzerland remain unchanged.

Corn ears CC0
Trade in agricultural productsBack to top

[Agriculture: pretty complex. The information note starts as below, and then continues with various annexes. Text copied from original note here. See also geographical indications technical note, and specifically for Gruyère]

The Agreement on Agriculture between Switzerland and the EU is no longer applicable to the United Kingdom. The trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom provides for the continuing application of existing mutual rights and obligations in the Agreement on Agriculture between Switzerland and the EU as far as possible.

This will affect the various areas (annexes) of the Agreement on Agriculture in different ways:

Agreement on Agriculture annexes 1–3, 7, 10, 12

[Annexes 1 to 3, 7, 10 and 12 (tariff quotas, cheese, wines & spirits, fruit and veg, geographical indications, etc— Switzerland and UK have agreed on bilateral solutions based on the Swiss-EU agricultural agreement. A temporary fix has been found for organic labelling.

[That fix, for specifically listed products, came from a decision by the joint Agriculture Committee on January 4, 2021, which also included Swiss recognition of UK certification and inspection bodies. Both apply for two years and will be reviewed.]

In the areas of the Agreement on Agriculture between Switzerland and the EU [Also on the Swiss government website (French, German and Italian)] that are not based on harmonisation of legislation or recognition of regulations equivalence between Switzerland and the EU (customs quotas, free trade in cheese, geographical indications, wine and spirits, marketing standards for fresh fruit and vegetables), bilateral solutions may be agreed based on the Agreement on Agriculture between Switzerland and the EU. Trade relations in these areas can essentially be continued as before.

A (temporary) solution could be found to Annex 9 of the CH-EU Agreement on Agriculture concerning agricultural products and foodstuffs from organic farming, because the United Kingdom has adopted EU legislation including the provisions on imports from third countries (i.e. including the recognition of third countries such as Switzerland and of so-called third-country inspection bodies). United Kingdom and Switzerland legislation is thus equivalent even after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.

The rules of origin applicable to Annexes 1-3 of the Agreement on Agriculture refer to Protocol No 3 of the Free Trade Agreement (see note on Preferential Rules of Origin [Protocol No 3 Swiss-EU Free Trade Agreement]).

Agreement on Agriculture Annexes 4–6

[Annexes 4 to 6 (non-tariff issues) — not status quo; checks for many products]

Owing to the harmonisation of legislation or recognition of the equivalence of regulations between Switzerland and the EU in these non-tariff areas, the status quo for the areas covered by these annexes (plant protection, feedstuffs, seeds) cannot be maintained. It is only possible to import feed from the United Kingdom if the corresponding Swiss regulations are met. Only feedstuffs marketable in Switzerland may be imported. The same is true for seeds. Plants and plant products listed in Annex 5 Part B of the Plant Protection Ordinance require a plant protection certificate, involving notification of the Federal Plant Protection Service prior to import and a phytosanitary inspection upon entry into Switzerland. For import consignments entering Switzerland by land, these controls are carried out at the point of entry into the Switzerland-EU common phytosanitary area (e.g. France, Belgium or the Netherlands depending on the route and means of transport used), as is the case for goods from other third countries.

Cattle in the Alps CC0

Trade in live animals and products of animal originBack to top

[The UK is no longer in the veterinary area. There will be some interruptions, how long depends “solely on the EU” — once the UK is recognised as a 3rd country, trade can resume. Text copied from original note here]

Now that the United Kingdom has left the EU, it is no longer part of the EU/Switzerland veterinary area. The Veterinary Agreement and Annex 11 of the Agreement on Agriculture are no longer applicable to the United Kingdom, which now has third-country status. This status applies to all countries other than EU member states, Iceland and Norway. Animals and products of animal origin from a third country can only be imported into Switzerland under specific conditions.

Trade in animals and products of animal origin originating in the United Kingdom and entering Switzerland (and the rest of the veterinary area) will be interrupted until such time as the EU places the United Kingdom on its list of permitted third countries. When this happens, the United Kingdom will again, it will again be able to export animals and products of animal origin into the EU and Switzerland, albeit under the EU’s import regulations for third countries. Current legislation relating to the import, transit and export of animals and products of animal origin can be found on the website of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

Exporters should refer to the United Kingdom government’s guidance on importing animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed not of animal origin.

Gavel CC0
Government ProcurementBack to top

[Government procurement: bilateral rights and obligations to be preserved in a future Swiss-UK agreement. Text copied from original note here]

Based on the trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom, existing mutual rights and obligations in the Switzerland-EU bilateral agreement on certain aspects of government procurement continue to apply bilaterally. The provisions of the existing bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU, or those of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement, will be adopted in a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Belfast Harbour, bulkers Wikimeida Ross Geograph CC BY-SA 2.0
Trade in goods with Northern IrelandBack to top

[It’s complicated. Text copied from original note here]

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI Protocol) concluded between the United Kingdom and the EU will apply unless otherwise agreed between the EU and the United Kingdom. Under the NI Protocol, Northern Ireland will still have to comply with some EU rules (in particular those relating to trade in goods). The Union Customs Code will apply to certain goods brought into Northern Ireland. For example, under Article 5 of the NI Protocol, goods which are brought into Northern Ireland from another part of the United Kingdom and which are likely to enter the EU at a later stage will have to comply with the Union Customs Code (EU Regulation 952/2013).

Under the NI Protocol, Northern Ireland is fully part of the United Kingdom customs territory. It is also subject to the trade agreement between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The NI Protocol can be found here: New Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and Political Declaration

Service provider mobilityBack to top

[This is considerably more restricted in general than under the EU-Switzerland agreement on freedom of movement of people, and somewhat more restricted than originally applied to services professionals. It lasts two years unless extended. Text copied from original note here, see more details above]

The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU no longer applies to relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom as of 1 January 2021. This removes a central basis for the provision of services by natural persons between Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In order to ensure mutual, facilitated market access for service providers after the AFMP no longer applies, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have concluded a Services Mobility Agreement (SMA). The SMA is applied as of 1 January 2021.

The SMA regulates mutual access and temporary stay of service providers in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Switzerland will continue the existing notification procedure for service providers from the United Kingdom seeking to work in the country for up to 90 days per year, with which businesses are familiar. On the side of the United Kingdom, there are market access commitments in over 30 service sectors, and the United Kingdom grants further preferential conditions to Swiss service providers. For example, Swiss service providers are not subject to an economic needs test for access in these sectors and are not required to provide evidence of English language skills. Swiss service providers may be granted access to the United Kingdom for 12 months within two calendar years. With these conditions, the SMA means that Swiss companies continue to have extensive access to the United Kingdom market for contract-based service provision by natural persons. It also allows Swiss businesses to continue to use short-term services from United Kingdom companies.

Market access to the United Kingdom under the SMA is currently limited to persons with university or equivalent qualifications. However, the United Kingdom has undertaken in an exchange of letters to reassess the recognition of Swiss qualifications.

The SMA is initially limited to two years; however, the contracting parties may decide jointly to extend it.

Find out moreBack to top

South Korea: See this blog post on grandfathering the EU-South Korea agreement for the UK, including linked articles (before details released). The text of the UK-South Korea text by chapter is now here.

Japan: The full text of the UK-Japan agreement, by chapter, is here. See also this fact check on geographical indications in the agreement.

Iceland and Norway: For comparison, documents related to the Agreement on Trade in Goods between Iceland, Norway and the UK can be found here. Published in April 2019, the documents are: the 81-page legal text (not yet in force), an explanatory memorandum (pdf, downloadable in OpenDocument format here), a 60-page report to the UK Parliament, UK letters to Norway and to Iceland on technical barriers to trade (product standards, labelling and regulation) and sanitary provisions (food safety and animal and plant health). At a quick glance, these seem to follow the pattern with Switzerland of an incomplete roll-over, some provisions being time-limited.

The agreement with Iceland and Norway is no longer valid. It was designed for the situation where the UK left the EU without a deal. Since the Withdrawal Agreement took effect, the one with Iceland and Norway “will not enter into force,” the British government says.

See this earlier Twitter thread:

See also:

Originally Twitter threads here and here.

● January 27, 2021 — further re-editing, adding more context, content from the agreement on goods (tariffs, tariff quotas), new talks on financial services; re-organising links to texts more logically
● January 25, 2021 — adding links to the main text, the sidebar box on mutual recognition, and the joint Agriculture Committee’s decision on organic labelling and recognition of UK certification bodies
January 18, 2021 — adding links to information on EU-Switzerland agreements and brief comparisons with the UK-Switzerland agreements

JANUARY 15, 2021TOTAL OVERHAUL. Replacing original pre-2021 notes with new Swiss government versions in English, and general updating. Also adding text and links to services agreements. Thanks to James Kane (@jameskkane) for clarifying some details of the UK’s commitments on mobility of services professionals. The original version of the notes is archived here.

December 4, 2020 — adding new agreement on mobility of services personnel; also links to UK-S.Korea text and to UK-Japan agreement
March 3, 2020 — adding reference to agreements with Iceland and Norway no longer applying.
January 23 and February 18, 2020 — adding links to current Swiss-EU bilateral agreements; June 29, 2019 — clarifying in the second paragraph that services are not included; June 10, 2019 — added links to the agreements with Norway and Iceland; March ● 23, 2019 — added material from the House of Lords EU Committee; February 20, 2019 — added references and links to published text; February 21, 24 — adding links to memo of understanding on future talks and report to the UK parliament; February 22 — adding link to Twitter thread examining how the agreement applies in deal and non deal situations; ●February 11, 2019 — reflecting changes in the updated version of the Swiss information sheet. The original version of this page is here

● Swiss Parliament and government buildings, Bern; Switzerland-France border at Bardonnex near Geneva | Peter Ungphakorn
CC BY-SA 4.0
● Custom House, Lower Thames Street, London: long-time home of HM Customs | Dhowes9 CC BY-SA 3.0

● Belfast Harbour, bulkers | Ross Geograph, Wikimeida, CC BY-SA 2.0
● All other photos CC0

Author: Peter Ungphakorn

I used to work at the WTO Secretariat (1996–2015), and am now an occasional freelance journalist, focusing mainly on international trade rules, agreements and institutions. (Previously, analysis for AgraEurope.) Trade β Blog is for trialling ideas on trade and any other subject, hence “β”. You can respond by using the contact form on the blog or tweeting @CoppetainPU

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