On February 17, 2021, the Swiss Federal Council opened consultation proceedings on the agreement between Switzerland and the UK on the mobility of service providers (Services Mobility Agreement, SMA). The agreement ensures reciprocal facilitated access for service providers between Switzerland and the UK following the expiry of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP). The consultation runs until 30 April.
Economic Affairs Minister Guy Parmelin and the UK Minister for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss, signed the Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) on 14 December 2020. The SMA regulates the reciprocal access and temporary stay of service providers such as management consultants, IT experts and engineers. It ensures mutual facilitated access for service providers in Switzerland and the UK after the AFMP ceased to apply to the UK from 1 January. The SMA also contains provisions on the recognition of professional qualifications.
Under the agreement, Switzerland will continue the notification procedure for service providers from the UK for up to 90 days per year. Businesses are already familiar with this procedure. The Swiss economy will thus continue to have rapid access to short-term services from UK companies. The accompanying measures for UK service providers will also continue in full under the SMA. In 2019, around 3,800 businesses from the UK provided services in Switzerland for up to 90 days.
The SMA also opens up the UK market to Swiss service providers through market access commitments in over 30 service sectors. It also gives them further preferential conditions in the UK; for example, Swiss service providers are not required to undergo an economic needs test for access in these sectors in the UK, nor to provide evidence of English language proficiency. Service providers from Switzerland are granted access to the UK market for 12 months within a 24-month period. These SMA conditions continue to give Swiss companies extensive access to the UK market for contract-based service provision by natural persons.
The SMA will initially apply for two years. The parties may mutually decide whether to extend it. The agreement has been applied provisionally since January 1, 2021.
The consultation period lasts until April 30, 2021, and the Federal Council must submit a dispatch to Parliament for the latter to approve the agreement on the basis of its provisional application by the end of June.