The UK-Switzerland Services Mobility Agreement will allow UK professionals, such as accountants, consultant, lawyers, and IT experts, to continue travelling freely to Switzerland and work visa-free for up to 90 days a year, the UK government said in a statement on Friday.
The agreement has closed “a looming gap,” as the agreement on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the UK will cease to apply as of Jan. 1, 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council said in a press release.
Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said this deal “provides vital continuity for businesses and paves the way for a more advanced deal with Switzerland in the future.”
It is “an important part” of the UK’s attempt to “create a cat’s cradle of deals with dynamic economies that share our values and commitment to rules-based free trade,” she said.
“This agreement locks in our existing services relationship, worth over £17 [billion], & is part of our strategy to enhance the UK’s status as a global services hub,” she wrote on Twitter.
Switzerland is not part of the European Union, but chose to join the EU’s Schengen Area of visa-free travel in December 2008.
The UK Parliament passed a bill last month to end the free movement of persons between the UK and the EU.
From Jan. 1, 2021, British citizens who intend to travel to Switzerland for work, study, or business will need to meet the entry requirements set out by Switzerland.
But under the new Services Mobility Agreement, “UK professionals will be able to do business as they do now and will not face economic interest tests, work permits or lengthy processing times for the first 90 days,” said the UK government.
This agreement will benefit Britain’s finance, consultancy, legal services, the tech sector, and the creative industries, which are vital to the UK economy, it said.
The two countries also committed to work together on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUK, called this “a positive outcome.”
“Given Switzerland’s place as one of the UK’s largest trading partners in services, we hope that this will be a further important step towards an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the two countries in the future,” he said.
Liz Truss is expected to sign the agreement with Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin in London on Dec. 14.