Switzerland and the UK have agreed to extend the 2021 Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) for another three years, potentially paving the way for a new free trade agreement.
Under the SMA, UK professionals such as accountants, lawyers and bankers can continue to travel and work in Switzerland for up to 90 days a year without needing a permit.
The two countries have also agreed to launch negotiations next year to establish long-term arrangements for services mobility and to boost trade between the UK and Switzerland.
International trade secretary Kemi Badenoch called the agreement a win-win for both sides by ensuring UK businesses could capitalise on huge opportunities.
“This is just the beginning. I am excited to launch negotiations on an ambitious, future-facing trade deal with Switzerland that will boost our already incredibly strong trading relationship, worth £39bn last year,” she added.
According to Swiss Federal Council figures reported in the Local, more than 4,000 British suppliers have used the 90-day market access option to provide services since 2021.
The deal also gives Swiss exporters “preferential access” to the UK market in over 30 service sectors.
In many segments, service providers no longer need to prove they hold a university degree or have experience in order to be admitted to the UK market.
Henriette Gjaerde, a trade and customs Specialist at the Institute for Export & International trade, explained:
“By extending the SMA, services suppliers in the UK and Switzerland will have certainty and can continue to uphold an important relationship between the two countries.”
“The main benefits of this agreement include mutual recognition of technical qualifications, preferential access and the removal of the need for a provider to prove they have a degree.”
Template for the future
Miles Celic, chief executive officer of financial services trade body TheCityUK, called the deal “a significant step in deepening this important partnership”.
“Eyes should now turn to agreeing what could be a ground-breaking Mutual Recognition Agreement between the UK and Switzerland to secure cross-border financial trade and a Free Trade Agreement that builds on the SMA to further enhance mobility arrangements.
“This deal will help our industry provide more jobs and support economic growth right across the country and hopefully provide a template for future, similar deals with other key markets.”
Service export market
Chris Hayward, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, also welcomed the deal.
“Access to the world’s best talent, and a capacity to move highly skilled labour between the UK and Switzerland is of paramount importance to the financial and professional service sector,” he said.
According to London Business News, Switzerland is the UK’s sixth largest export market for services, worth more than £12bn in exports last year.
Business services including accountancy, architectural, and legal services made up the majority of these, worth £6.5bn, while financial services accounted for £1.9bn.