Switzerland and the UK sign agreement on mobility of service suppliers

Bern, 14.12.2020 - Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, signed the Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) on 14 December 2020 in London. The agreement secures reciprocal, facilitated market access for service providers from Switzerland and the United Kingdom from 1 January 2021.

The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) between Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) regulates the mutual access and temporary stay of service suppliers, for example of management consultants, IT experts or engineers from 1 January 2021. On that date, the Switzerland-EU agreement on the free movement of persons will no longer apply to the UK. The SMA also contains provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications. The Federal Council approved it on 4 December 2020. It is part of the Federal Council's "mind-the-gap" strategy following the UK's exit from the EU.

The agreement 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 24 month 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. The agreement will be applied provisionally from 1 January 2021. The dispatch approving the agreement will be submitted to Parliament by the end of June 2021.

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