Brexit: What Brits in Switzerland make of the rights agreement with the UK

Alex Macbeth
Alex Macbeth - [email protected]
Brexit: What Brits in Switzerland make of the rights agreement with the UK
Photo: AFP

The Local spoke to the British Residents Association (BRA) to get their view on the citizens rights agreement between Switzerland and the UK.


Switzerland and the UK agreed on a bilateral agreement to protect the rights of Swiss nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU in December 2018, before most EU nations had offered, or at least made public, such guarantees.

“This includes arrangements on residency, access to healthcare, pensions and education, social security coordination and mutual recognition of professional qualifications,” read a statement from the UK's Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) at the time. 

The agreement affects around 43,000 UK citizens living in Switzerland and 34,500 Swiss nationals living in the UK.

"BRA membership is generally satisfied with the UK-Swiss citizens’ rights agreement and happy with the support and information being provided by the UK Embassy in Bern," Graham Robertson, BRA's chairman, told The Local by email.

As the EU and the UK continue to try and encourage the UK parliament to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, which would protect the rights of 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU and 3.5 million EU27 nationals in the UK, BRA expressed satisfaction that UK nationals in Switzerland are now covered, regardless of the outcome of those negotiations.


"There appears to be a general acceptance that the UK-Swiss citizens’ rights agreement safeguards the existing position of those resident in Switzerland and satisfaction that this removes these rights and benefits from the ongoing negotiations between UK and the EU," added Robertson.

Most of BRA's members are long term residents, often retirees who have raised families in Switzerland and will be able to meet the conditions to obtain long term residency under the terms of the bilateral agreement on citizens' rights.

"The rights envisaged in the citizens' rights agreement are valid for life," Lukas Rieder, a spokesman for Switzerland's State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), told The Local. 

UK nationals who arrive however after the UK's withdrawal date, currently Friday April 12th – in the event of a no-deal exit – would be subject to quotas and would have to demonstrate employment or proof of a "lucrative activity." A total of 3,500 temporary work permits would be granted to UK nationals who arrive after the UK's exit date until the end of 2019, according to a statement by Swiss authorities.

READ ALSO: Switzerland to set quotas for Brits in event of no-deal Brexit

"We have been told by the Swiss authorities that the level of the interim quota is based on the past rate of arrivals of UK subjects. Our understanding is that the long-term quotas have yet to be determined," BRA's Robertson told The Local.

"The quota is likely to have more of an effect on industry, commerce and particularly the tourist industry," added Robertson.

READ ALSO: Confirmed: UK nationals won't need visas for Switzerland after Brexit


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