UK-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations: Key priorities for UK-based financial and related professional services

Switzerland is a priority market for the UK-based financial and related professional services industry. An ambitious UK-Switzerland FTA could shape more integrated UK-Switzerland financial markets, provide UK businesses more freedom to operate in Switzerland, secure digital trade, enable access to high-skilled UK and Swiss talent, and allow for the recognition of UK professional qualifications in Switzerland. This would lead to more high skilled jobs and sustainable investment in both countries.

Key UK/Switzerland trade facts

  • In 2021, total UK exports to Switzerland were £22.5bn and total imports were £16bn, resulting in a trade surplus of £6.5bn
  • Total UK trade in financial services with Switzerland was £2.5bn in 2021, representing 13.7% of overall UK services trade with Switzerland and providing a £1.7bn trade surplus.  

Core trade asks

Regulatory cooperation

The UK and Switzerland governments are negotiating a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) that will create more integrated UK-Switzerland financial markets. The UK financial and related professional services industry sees real opportunity for MRA negotiations to establish a new gold standard in cross-border regulatory and supervisory cooperation. The UK-Switzerland FTA should support this process by recognising the importance of the MRA, stating how regularly regulators should meet under the MRA, and outlining the principles that should underpin future UK-Switzerland financial regulatory cooperation, including mutual recognition and regulatory deference.  

The FTA should encourage financial regulators to seek mutual compatibility of regulatory frameworks, develop consistent regulatory approaches on an outcomes basis, promote regulatory co-operation in new financial services (FinTech, digital assets, and AI) and share best practices on cybersecurity and operational resilience. It should provide for industry involvement in UK-Switzerland regulatory dialogues.  

Expanding cross-border trade

The UK should seek ambitious FTA commitments to enable UK businesses to provide cross-border services into Switzerland in the following sectors: 

  • maritime, aviation, and transport insurance and reinsurance (MAT) 
  • reinsurance, retrocession and insurance intermediation
  • the supply of financial information and financial data and valuation services
  • financial advisory services
  • exchange access, clearing and settlement
  • portfolio management services and investment advice
  • electronic payment services for payment card transactions
  • legal services
  • accounting and auditing services. 

Providing UK businesses more freedom to operate in Switzerland

Switzerland is mostly open to UK business establishment, but some restrictions remain. The UK should seek to liberalise Swiss commercial presence rules, removing barriers in the following areas:  

  • foreign investor equity caps
  • joint venture requirements
  • economic needs tests
  • restrictions relating to corporate form of a service-supplier
  • nationality and/or residency requirements for business personnel. 

Facilitating digital trade

igital trade is essential for financial and professional services businesses. The UK and Switzerland should commit to a high standard digital trade agreement that: 

  • prevents cross-border data flow restrictions
  • prevents unjustified data localisation requirements and ensures that financial services are not excluded from agreements on localisation
  • recognises the international validity of e-signatures, digital authentication and electronic contracts and provides for electronic invoicing
  • protects confidential information relating to software, source codes and encryption technologies.  

The UK should work to maintain existing data adequacy arrangements with the EU and Switzerland to enable personal data to flow between the UK and Switzerland in frictionless ways. 

Enabling business mobility

Financial and professional businesses succeed when they have access to skilled talent. The UK and Switzerland both offer strong talent pipelines: both countries could benefit from an FTA that helps UK and Switzerland professionals work in each other’s country. The UK should extend the UK-Switzerland Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) beyond its current time limit and extend the length of stay for UK professionals in Switzerland. UK and Switzerland negotiators should achieve faster visa turnaround times, reduced administrative costs for business visas, and clearer definitions of who can get a business visa. Spouses and children should be able to accompany professional workers.  

Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) 

The UK has a temporary MRPQ agreement with Switzerland. The agreement needs to be extended. The UK should also ensure the FTA delivers a clear path for the recognition of UK professional qualifications in Switzerland. The UK and Switzerland should agree an MRPQ framework based on the MRPQ terms in the UK-EEA EFTA FTA, which required EFTA and UK authorities to recognise each other’s professional qualifications subject to certain conditions being met.  

Green and sustainable finance 

The UK and Switzerland should work together to support the green transition. The FTA should call for both countries to develop aligned approaches to green finance disclosure standards, green ratings, and green taxonomies. The UK should seek Swiss recognition of UK requirements for premium listed companies to disclose their consistency with Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) requirements in their annual reports. The UK should urge Switzerland to follow its approach of using International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standards as the backbone to its disclosure regulations. The FTA should ensure industry engagement in UK-Switzerland green finance regulatory dialogues.