World news story

Message from the Ambassador to businesses in Switzerland

The British Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Jane Owen, sends a message to businesses regarding the UK's departure from the EU.

Ambassador Jane Owen

Following the decision by the European Council to extend the date the UK will leave the EU to 31 October 2019, I wanted to write to thank you for your ongoing engagement, and to provide some contacts and links to support your business with the UK.

Our economic and business ties are very strong and growing: bilateral trade is worth £30bn a year, with a reciprocal investment stock of almost £100bn. We are closely connected through supply chains and transport links, and strong research partnerships. Our people-to-people links drive successful business, with around 40,000 British nationals resident in Switzerland and 2,600 British frontier workers.

We want to preserve and build on this success. Our changing relationship with the EU is obviously a part of that. For now, nothing changes. The UK will remain a member of the EU until 31 October, unless the Withdrawal Agreement is passed by Parliament before then, in which case we will leave on the first of the calendar month following that decision. We retain all of our rights and obligations as an EU member state during this time.

The Withdrawal Agreement includes an implementation period which will be in place from exit day until 31 December 2020, during which current trading arrangements between the UK and the EU will continue. We are determined to achieve an orderly departure from the EU, and have made preparations for the unlikely event of a “no deal” departure. We are grateful to the Swiss Government for successful conclusion of five “continuity agreements”, which will come into force whenever the UK leaves the EU. These are as follows:

  • the Trade Agreement which replicates, as much as possible, the effects of the existing EU trade arrangements with Switzerland. Like the EU agreements, it reduces tariffs and non-tariff measures impacting trade in goods, whilst also covering government procurement

  • the Citizens’ Rights Agreement which protects the rights of UK and Swiss nationals who have chosen to call each other’s countries home

  • the Land Transport Agreement which allows for the continued transport of goods and people to, from, and through the UK and Switzerland

  • the Air Transport Agreement which safeguards services between the UK and Switzerland that carried 6.7 million passengers in 2017

  • the Direct Insurance Agreement which provides continuity for UK and Swiss insurers accessing the UK or Swiss market both now and in the future

Full details of all these agreements are available online.

As well as supporting the continuity of our existing relationships, we are working hard on an ambitious agenda to develop our partnerships for the future:

  • preparing for a potential new bilateral free trade agreement between the UK and Switzerland, taking advantage of the UK’s future ability to conclude trade deals with partners outside the EU

  • working together to benefit from the UK’s Industrial Strategy, which aims to transform our economy to take account of shifts in artificial intelligence, green technology, new mobility solutions, healthcare innovation and big data/digital impact

  • developing new research partnerships, leveraging our universities, institutes, tech start-ups and business innovation

  • partnering to promote liberal trading practices and global regulation for example in the WTO, in financial services, and internet governance

Business is vital to the successful delivery of all of these priorities. I want to strengthen our relationship with you, and to help your business partnerships with the UK flourish. Please do make full use of the following contacts in my team:

We also work closely with the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC), which supports 500 members in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the UK. You can contact Caroline Rosenberger (Membership Director) for further information ( ).

Please stay in touch and share your ideas on how we can work more closely together.

Yours sincerely

Jane Owen

HM Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Published 12 April 2019