UK and Switzerland Sign Post-Brexit Business Travel Deal

December 14, 2020 Updated: December 14, 2020

The United Kingdom and Switzerland signed an agreement on Dec. 14 to allow professional workers to travel freely between the two countries after the Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31.

The UK–Switzerland Services Mobility Agreement will allow UK professionals, such as accountants, consultants, lawyers, and IT experts, to continue travelling freely to Switzerland and work visa-free for up to 90 days a year.

The agreement has closed “a looming gap,” as 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 media release when the deal was approved on Dec. 4.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement: “This deal between two services powerhouses is an important part of our mission to be a global hub for services and technology trade.

“It supports a services relationship that is worth over £17 billion [$22.8 billion] and provides much needed certainty for thousands of UK businesses and professionals,” she said.

Switzerland is not part of the European Union but chose to join the EU’s Schengen Area of visa-free travel in December 2008.

End of Free Movement

The UK Parliament passed a bill last month to end the free movement of people 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,” the UK government said.

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.

Truss said it will bolster the UK’s standing as a “global leader in services,” reinforce trade in key sectors, and benefit “businesses of all sizes, from big firms to small start-ups and self-employed professionals.”

The two countries have also committed to work together on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUK, called the agreement “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.

Truss echoed his remarks, saying that she hoped the agreement “will pave the way for an enhanced UK–Switzerland deal.”

Alexander Zhang contributed to this report.