by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels
31 May 2019
The Swiss Federal Council has launched a public consultation on an agreement that will govern trade relations with the UK after Brexit.
Relations between Switzerland and the UK are currently governed by a range of Swiss-EU agreements.
In February, the Swiss and UK governments signed a trade continuity agreement which would replicate the majority of these agreements, namely: the 1971 Free Trade Agreement, the Agreement on Public Procurement, the Agreement on the Fight Against Fraud, part of the Agreement on Mutual Recognition in Relations to Conformity Assessment, and part of the 1999 Agreement on Agriculture. February’s agreement also provides for exploratory discussions on the future development of bilateral relations.
On May 15, the Swiss Federal Council announced a consultation on the new agreement. It said that although the date for the UK’s departure from the EU has been extended to October 31, it is not possible to exclude the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. It explained that the new trade agreement prevents the risk of a legal vacuum with regard to bilateral relations with the UK. In addition, in view of the ongoing uncertainty, the agreement takes into account various scenarios concerning the future EU-UK relationship.
The Council said that as the withdrawal date is “still open,” with a disorderly Brexit remaining a possibility, it will apply the agreement on a provisional basis if that proves necessary.
An additional agreement has been signed by Switzerland, the UK, and Liechtenstein to extend the relevant provisions of the trade agreement to the territory of Liechtenstein under the Swiss-Liechtenstein Customs Union.
The consultation will run to September 5. The Federal Council will submit a dispatch on the two agreements to Parliament in the autumn.
In 2018, the UK was Switzerland’s sixth largest market for goods, with bilateral trade valued at around CHF8.8bn (USD8.7bn).