Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) have maintained close relations over many years founded on similar ideas in areas such as the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, social and economic order, and good governance, and with a special focus on economic and financial market issues.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–United Kingdom
For Switzerland and the UK, the decision by a majority of UK voters to leave the EU (Brexit referendum of 23 June 2016) meant that numerous provisions which used to be regulated under EU law must now be negotiated bilaterally. Since 1 January 2021, these have been succeeded by a series of follow-up agreements that Switzerland negotiated with the UK as part of its Mind the Gap strategy (including Mind the Gap+).
With this strategy, the Federal Council laid the groundwork for a new legal basis for the relationship between Switzerland and the UK after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. To this end, Switzerland and the UK have concluded new agreements covering trade, migration, road and air transport, and insurance.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland and the UK pursue similar foreign policy objectives in a variety of international forums, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe. In the last few years cooperation has concentrated on the following fields:
- promotion of human security
- conflict prevention and peacebuilding measures
- worldwide abolition of the death penalty
- regulation of private military and security companies
- prevention of the spread of weapons of mass destruction
- prevention of sexual violence in conflicts
Parliamentarians from Switzerland and the UK also conduct lively exchanges. One particular event is the traditional, annual parliamentarians ski race in Davos (Switzerland), the 64nd round of which was held in 2020.
Switzerland and the UK are important to each other as trading partners and have close economic ties. Liberal economic systems and open markets are high priorities for both countries.
The UK is Switzerland's sixth most important trading partner. In 2020, Swiss imports and exports amounted to around CHF 16 billion each, a total trade volume of approx. CHF 32 billion.
At the end of 2019, Swiss direct investments in the UK stood at CHF 78.6 billion, which makes the UK the fifth most important destination for Swiss direct investments.
At the end of 2019, UK direct investments in Switzerland stood at CHF 68 billion.
Both Switzerland and the UK have major financial centres. There are consequently regular exchanges between supervisory authorities, central banks and banking associations.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Switzerland's dual vocational education and training system has been attracting strong interest in the UK in recent years. The embassy offers a platform for dialogue between specialists and governmental circles. In addition, it supports study visits to Switzerland and events in the UK (e.g. workshops, conferences and national prize awards) that convey the high value of vocational apprenticeships in Switzerland and their potential in the UK.
Swiss nationals in the United Kingdom
According to the statistics on the Swiss abroad, 37,727 Swiss nationals were living in the United Kingdom at the end of 2020.
In addition to the embassy in London, Switzerland has an honorary consulate general in Edinburgh and honorary consulates in Manchester, Belfast, Cardiff, Hamilton (Bermuda), Gibraltar and Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands).
Switzerland and the UK have maintained close cultural ties for a long time. The embassy supports Swiss artists in many different projects in London, as well as in other parts of the country. Switzerland is regularly represented at the UK's most important cultural festivals and art fairs, in particular the Edinburgh International Festival, the London Film Festival, the BBC Proms and the Frieze Art Fair.
History of bilateral relations
The two states established diplomatic relations in 1891. During the Second World War, Switzerland represented British interests in Germany, Japan, Italy, France, China and other countries. In 1960, Switzerland and the UK founded, together with some other European states, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
Relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom date back to the early Middle Ages when monks from the British Isles came to Switzerland as missionaries. Contacts between the two states also took place from the 15th century onwards in the form of Swiss mercenaries serving under the English flag. The Swiss mountains have always held a special fascination for many Britons. In 1863, a British travel agency carried out the first organised tour to Switzerland. This paved the way for tourism in Switzerland and at the same time provided an incentive for the construction of the railway network in Switzerland. British tourists still account for the third-largest group of foreign visitors to Switzerland today.