On the 19 December 2018, the Swiss Federal Council approved the agreement between Switzerland and the UK about the rights of its citizens after Brexit. The strategy named “Mind the Gap” (named after the iconic warning signs in the London Underground) intends to secure acquired rights and obligations after the UK has left the European Union.
“Mind the Gap” strategy
After Brexit, the European bilateral agreements including the one on free movement of persons will cease to be applicable between Switzerland and the UK. The intent of the “Mind the Gap” strategy is to allow UK citizens living and/ or working in Switzerland to maintain their work and residence permits in Switzerland if they are employed under a Swiss employment contract. Equally, Swiss citizens living and/or working in the UK are afforded the same rights by the UK government.
What does the agreement govern?
Swiss and UK nationals will retain their rights after Brexit, which they have acquired on the basis of the bilateral treaties.
This contains the following elements:
- Work and residence permit authorisations;
- Social security entitlements;
- Recognition of professional qualifications;
- Completion of existing ICT-assignments.
For whom is the agreement applicable?
The approved agreement is applicable to those Swiss and UK nationals who reside in the other country and have acquired rights based on the European bilateral agreement.
The agreement, however, does not apply to British and Swiss nationals who immigrate after Brexit.
When does the agreement take effect?
The implementation of the agreement depends on the “Deal / No-Deal” situation between the UK and the EU:
If UK and the EU come into an agreement regarding the withdrawal agreement, a transition period will be applicable before Brexit takes full effect (presumably end of 2020). The approved agreement between Switzerland and UK will be implemented after the transition period.
If there is no agreement on the withdrawal between UK and the EU, the UK will officially leave the EU as per 29 March 2019 with full effect. For this scenario, the agreement between Switzerland and UK will be activated as of the 30 of March 2019.
With approximately 45,000 UK citizens living in Switzerland and approx. 35,000 Swiss citizens in the UK, a solution after Brexit needs to be implemented which serves the mutual interests in an optimal way. The agreement that was approved on the 19 of December 2018 secures all acquired rights of UK and Swiss citizens and now provides certainty on the legal situation of employees and their families. The “Mind the Gap” strategy and its flexibility on the date of implementation is a pragmatic measure taking away the uncertainty of a “No Deal” outcome for many thousands of UK and Swiss citizens and their families.
Our Conclusions and Recommendations
- For UK citizens in Switzerland holding a valid work and residence authorization (L,B or C permit), no further action is required as the agreement fully protects their acquired rights as long as the requirements are met. The same applies to their family members. However, a British citizen who de-registers from his community in Switzerland and moves to another country cannot reactivate the acquired right of residence when re-entering later.
- ICT-permits that were approved before Brexit, will be valid until the expiry date of the work permit.
- Employers must be aware that the agreement is only applicable for acquired rights before Brexit takes effect. Depending on the effective date of withdrawal of UK from the EU, employers may need to reconsider the start date of any planned local employments or ICT for their UK employees, in order to be treated by the current applicable bilateral treaties.
If you would like to discuss more on this topic, please do reach out to our key contacts below.
By Soorej Mannancherril – Manager, Immigration.