Ursula Heri
Ursula Heri
Direktorin, Treuhand, Standortleiterin Zürich

The decision by Great Britain to withdraw from the European Union creates uncertainty in many respects. What happens after Brexit? This also applies to the issue of migration, i.e. the free movement of persons.

As a result of the decision to resign, the agreements which were previously subject to EU law will become obsolete and will have to be regulated anew in bilateral negotiations. The Confederation's "Mind the Gap" strategy aims to maintain or even expand acquired rights from relations between Switzerland and Great Britain after the Brexit.


Initial situation

The withdrawal from the European Community (Brexit) decided by Great Britain at the vote of 23 June 2016 (Brexit) meant that there was uncertainty as to how the relationship between Switzerland and Great Britain would affect the financial market and the economy. Brexit also employs employers and employees in the area of migration, i.e. the free movement of persons and thus social security. The decision to resign has the effect of rendering obsolete the numerous provisions that are currently still governed by EU law. The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons guaranteed nationals of the two countries the right to choose their place of work and residence within the territory of the contracting parties and social security was also guaranteed.


Mind the Gap Strategy of the Federal Government

So what happens after the Brexit with the free movement of persons? Switzerland intended to safeguard and, if possible, expand the existing mutual rights and obligations beyond the date on which Great Britain left the EU. This required agreements in bilateral agreements. The Federal Council had laid the foundations for this in its "Mind the Gap" strategy and has since been in regular contact with Great Britain.


Bilateral agreements - influence on migration

On 6 December 2019, the Federal Council adopted the Message on the Switzerland - United Kingdom Agreement on Acquired Rights. It states that the rights acquired by citizens of both countries under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons with the European Union are secured even after their departure. This will benefit around 34,500 Swiss citizens and around 43,000 British nationals who are staying in the other country under the existing Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. The signed agreement applies to rights in the areas of free movement of persons, social security and mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The rights thus obtained are valid for life.

This new agreement will enter into force as soon as the existing agreement between Switzerland and the UK on the free movement of persons no longer applies. This is expected to be the case from 1 January 2021.


Transition phase Year 2020

The Federal Council has also signed a temporary agreement governing the transitional period after the Brexit agreement until the new Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons enters into force. The agreement is expected to come into force in 2020. The temporary agreement stipulates that the rules on the free movement of persons regarding social security and migration between Switzerland and the UK will remain temporarily valid and is also part of the "Mind the Gap" strategy.


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