Switzerland – UK: Federal Council approves Agreement on mobility of service suppliers

Press releases, 04.12.2020

The Federal Council approved on 4 December 2020 an agreement between Switzerland and the UK on the mobility of service suppliers. The agreement provides reciprocal, facilitated market access for service suppliers to close a looming gap after the agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) will cease to apply as of 1 January 2021. The conclusion of this agreement is part of the Federal Council's "mind-the-gap" strategy following the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) between Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland regulates the mutual access and temporary stay of service suppliers, for example of management consultants, IT experts or engineers. It also contains provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications.

It provides that Switzerland will continue the notification procedure used to date and familiar to the business community for service suppliers from the UK for up to 90 days per year. The agreement thus allows Swiss businesses to continue to use short-term services from UK companies in a timely manner. In 2019, around 3,800 notifiable service suppliers up to 90 days from the UK were registered in Switzerland.

On the UK side, market opening vis-à-vis Switzerland is achieved through market access commitments in over 30 services sectors. In addition, the UK grants Swiss service suppliers further preferential treatment. For example, Swiss service suppliers are not subject to an economic needs test for access to these sectors in the UK and are not required to provide evidence of knowledge of English. Service suppliers from Switzerland can stay in the UK up to 12 months in any two-year period. With these conditions, the SMA will continue to allow Swiss companies extensive market access in the UK for contract-based service provision by natural persons.

Market access to the UK under the SMA is currently limited to persons with qualifications at university or equivalent level. However, the UK undertakes, through an exchange of notes, to reassess the equivalence of Swiss vocational education and training qualifications.

The SMA is initially limited to two years. However, the contracting parties may jointly decide to extend the duration. In order to ensure that the agreement can be applied provisionally and seamlessly from 1 January 2021, the relevant parliamentary committees will be consulted. The dispatch approving the agreement will be submitted to Parliament by the end of June 2021.

Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin is expected to sign the agreement in London on 14 December together with the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP.

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