Temporary agreement to safeguard access to the labour market even in the event of a ’no-deal’ Brexit

The Federal Council, 17.04.2019

At its meeting on 17 April, the Federal Council approved a temporary agreement with the United Kingdom on access to the Swiss labour market. The agreement will apply in the event of the UK’s disorderly departure from the EU. For a limited transition period, it would introduce simplified requirements for working in either country. In this way, the Federal Council plans to safeguard the interests of the Swiss economy with regard to the recruitment of British workers, and the ability of Swiss nationals to access the UK labour market.

The date for the UK’s departure from the EU has been extended to 31 October at the latest. Switzerland’s bilateral agreements with the EU will therefore continue to cover Switzerland’s relations with the UK until that date. However, it is still possible that the UK will leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement (a ’no deal’ scenario). In such an eventuality, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) in particular would no longer apply in relations between Switzerland and the UK. Under the Federal Council’s negotiating mandate of 5 September 2018, the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) has negotiated a temporary agreement with the UK on labour market access.

In the event of a disorderly departure, UK nationals in Switzerland would have the same status as third country nationals. For admission to take up employment, the requirements set out in the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) apply. The temporary agreement would therefore introduce simplified access to the Swiss labour market for UK nationals for a limited period. This would mean, on a case-by-case basis, dispensing with checks on professional qualifications and waiving the precedence given to workers already resident in Switzerland and the consideration given to the interests of the economy as a whole. There would also be a temporary waiver of the need for federal government approval for cantonal permits, although wage levels and working conditions would still be checked. Separate quotas for UK nationals would also apply.

Transitional solution to cushion impact of abrupt change

The temporary agreement would cushion the impact of an abrupt change from the free movement of persons to third country rules and provide the Swiss economy with legal and planning certainty. The agreement stipulates that the admission of UK nationals to Switzerland is subject to annual quotas set by the Federal Council. The Federal Council took the decision to issue separate quotas for UK nationals (2,100 B permits and 1,400 L permits until the end of 2019) on 22 March. Under the agreement, the Federal Council can still independently determine the number and type of permits in future. In setting the quotas, it would take into account the interests of the economy as a whole and the precedence given to workers already resident in Switzerland.

Swiss nationals are able to stay in the UK for up to three months without needing a permit. If they wish to stay for longer than three months, they are required to register and receive a residence permit valid for three years. In the agreement, Switzerland and the UK have committed themselves to affording citizens from their respective countries the same rights of access to the labour market.

Provisional application from 1 June 2019 at the earliest

The Federal Council approved the agreement at its meeting on 17 April. Before signing it however, the Federal Council will consult the relevant parliamentary committees regarding the provisional application of the agreement. This would only be possible from 1 June at the earliest.

The agreement will only come into force in the event of the UK’s disorderly departure from the EU, and would only be valid until 31 December 2020.

The approval of the agreement forms part of the Federal Council’s ’Mind the Gap’ strategy aimed at safeguarding as far as possible existing mutual rights and obligations beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

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