The political future of the United Kingdom is currently subject to great uncertainty. There is a risk that the EU and the UK will not conclude a deal by 30 March 2019, leading to a disorderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. In case of such an event, the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) which currently applies between all EU countries and Switzerland would no longer be applicable between the UK and Switzerland. Consequently, UK citizens would be treated in the same way as “third-country nationals” when entering Switzerland. In addition, the requirements of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act (FNIA) would apply for admission to take up employment in Switzerland.
On 13 February, the Federal Council decided in the context of its “Mind the Gap” strategy to take temporary measures to protect the close bilateral relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit. In the concrete case of a No-Deal Brexit scenario, a separate quota shall be created for permits for British citizens who wish to enter Switzerland to take up employment. With this measure, the Federal Council aims, on the one hand, to reduce potential damage to the economy and the cantons in the event of an abrupt change of British nationals from persons entitled to freedom of movement to third-country nationals. On the other hand, unwanted competition between UK citizens and other third-country nationals is to be prevented.
Should the No-Deal Brexit occur, from 30 March until 31 December of this year, a total of 2,100 residence permits (B) and 1,400 short-stay permits (L) would be available for the recruitment of workers from the UK. This would allow 3,500 British Citizens to work in Switzerland. The permits would be directly issued by the cantons, which do not need any consent by the Swiss Confederation. Currently there are talks taking place between Switzerland and the United Kingdom in which a bilateral agreement with other approaches to solving the described problems is being discussed. However, until solutions through future migration agreements are reached, the stated temporary measures decided by the Federal Council would apply.
The Federal Department of Justice and Police will work on the amendments to the Ordinance on Admission, Period of Stay and Employment by the end of March 2019. The Federal Council will then have its final decision on these measures.
In the case that the UK and the EU can agree on a withdrawal agreement before 30 March 2019, the AFMP will continue to govern the relations between Switzerland and the UK during a transitional period, which is expected last until the end of 2020.