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The Swiss Federal Councillor and the British Secretary of State for Business & Trade, met in London recently to sign an agreement on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. This is the second agreement of this type signed by Switzerland with countries outside of the EU, the first one being with Quebec in 2022.

 

Switzerland and the UK have held close bilateral relations for several decades and Britain has repeatedly taken Switzerland’s side when dealing with other European powers.

  • Swiss-UK relations extend well beyond politics however, and in the 18th and 19th centuries, the aristocratic British were the main developers of many tourism and leisure activities in Switzerland.  Even Swiss winter tourism, which began in earnest in St. Moritz in 1864, can trace its roots back to the British, with a challenge- invitation to British summer guests from Swiss hotelier, Kaspar Badrutt.
  • With such close cultural and political ties built up over a long period of time, it should come as no surprise that cooperation between the two countries on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications began over twenty years ago with the Swiss-EU agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP).
  • Due to Brexit, Switzerland and the UK started to take steps to protect the rights of their respective citizens in February 2020. Currently, there are 43’000 UK nationals living in Switzerland and 14’000 Swiss nationals living in the UK, plus approximately 2’600 UK nationals who travel to work in Switzerland from neighbouring EU states. These statistics means making an agreement resolution on qualifications is all the more important.

 

 

 

Switzerland and the UK have now entered into a new agreement, pending ratification in 2024 by the Swiss Parliament.

The key points of the agreement are:

  • It enables citizens of both countries to take up employment in regulated professional activities.
  • Swiss professionals and companies will be able to continue offering their services in the United Kingdom.
  • Special privileges can be established for specific professions
    • either through mutual recognition arrangements (MRA’s)
    • by adding annexes to the current agreement
  • The above two options provide the contracting parties with the necessary means to adapt the system over time and as needed.

One of the stated objectives of the Federal Council’s international strategy for education, research and innovation is to encourage the international recognition of Swiss professional qualifications.

The above objective will require additional MRA’s to be signed, which would cover qualifications awarded in countries whose education system is comparable to Switzerland’s. At the recent agreement meeting, it was also decided to initiate consultation for this agreement and proposed legislative amendments. This consultation will continue until early October 2023.

The signing of this agreement between Switzerland and the UK, is a welcome move towards the simplification of administration for workers of both countries. However, the ability for Swiss and UK nationals to move more freely between the two jurisdictions, will generally still depend on the industry sector, type of role advertised, availability of qualified local personnel and applicant qualifications. As already mentioned however, the final goal with the agreement is for special privileges to be established for specific professions through mutual recognition arrangements (MRA’s).

 

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