London – Britain and Switzerland have signed a deal to ensure that trade keeps flowing between the two nations following Britain’s expected exit from the European Union on March 29.
“Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that we are seeking continuity for, accounting for more than 32 billion pounds [41 billion dollars] worth of trade a year,” British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in Bern, according to prepared remarks.
Swiss-British trade pact
The deal that Fox signed with Swiss Economics Minister Guy Parmelin replicates most of the agreements that are currently in place between Britain and non-EU member Switzerland.
If London leaves the European bloc under the terms of a transition deal with Brussels, the Swiss-British trade pact will come into effect after the transition ends.
If the divorce ends up as a no-deal Brexit, the trade pact will come into force already on March 30, the Swiss Economic Affairs Department said.
Big export destination for Switzerland
Britain is the sixth-biggest export destination for Swiss companies, with 11.4 billion Swiss francs (11.4 billion dollars) of Swiss goods flowing across the Channel in 2017.
The two countries also rank each other among the top 10 foreign investment destinations.
The deal was struck in Bern after British media outlets have reported that Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to ask Parliament for more time to negotiate changes to her Brexit deal with the EU.
May suffered a crushing defeat in a January vote on her withdrawal agreement, and the clock is ticking down to March 29 amid growing anxiety Britain could crash out with no deal in place.
Meanwhile, Switzerland has been struggling to reach a far-reaching deal on economic ties with the EU, as the bloc is avoiding any conciliatory gestures to other countries while it is still negotiating Brexit.