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House of Commons Hansard
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EFTA States and Switzerland: Future Relationship
20 July 2020
Volume 678
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The Government are pleased to announce that we have moved into formal negotiations on our future relationships with both the EEA EFTA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland from the beginning of July.

The Government have already been working closely with all four non-EU states on a range of issues related to our future relationship. We have successfully delivered a number of agreements, including the EEA EFTA separation agreement signed in January this year, which broadly mirrors provisions in the EU withdrawal agreement on citizens’ rights and a small number of other relevant separation issues. With the Swiss, we have concluded and signed agreements in five key areas; trade; air services; road transport; insurance; and citizen’s rights.

The EEA EFTA states and Switzerland are important European economic partners, with bilateral trade totalling approximately £27 billion with the EEA EFTA states and around £39 billion with Switzerland in 2019. We also enjoy close co-operation with these countries across a range of areas outside of trade, which is why the Government are seeking to agree measures that span across the entire breadth of our relationship.

EEA EFTA states

Negotiations with the EEA EFTA states will continue to take place alongside those we are conducting with the EU. In some areas, our future relationship with these states will be closely tied to the UK’s future relationship with the EU by virtue of their participation in the EU single market, via the EEA agreement, and other EU-led initiatives. In others, these countries have the flexibility to agree bespoke bilateral arrangements. The ongoing negotiations will need to take account of this, but we are clear in our aim of protecting the close levels of existing co-operation we have we these key European partners, and building ambitious future facing agreements befitting our close relationship with them.

A successful UK-EEA EFTA future relations dialogue took place on 16 July. We will be publishing further details of these negotiations on the Government’s website soon, providing further details on the scope of the arrangements we are seeking to agree.

Switzerland

Over the last three years, a dedicated high-level UK-Swiss continuity dialogue has proven highly successful in advancing vital work to uphold our excellent relations with the Swiss in the context of our EU exit. The continuity arrangements we have reached with Switzerland have given vital certainty to citizens and businesses alike. The Government are seeking to build on these strong foundations in the future: we are now convening a new UK-Swiss future relations dialogue to open the next chapter in our relations.

Our first UK-Swiss future relations dialogue took place on 1 July. The Government are taking a sequenced approach to our joint endeavours with Switzerland before the review clause in our trade continuity agreement activates in 2021. First, we will aim to resolve residual separation issues as far as is possible. Secondly, we will also aim to address issues that are dependent on our negotiations with the EU or indeed related negotiations. Thirdly, we will begin exploring new bilateral opportunities where we can make progress together in 2020.

Sequencing

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working with other Government Departments to secure the delivery of these negotiations. The Department for International Trade continues to be responsible for all trade and economic arrangements. In non-trade areas, Departments responsible will seek arrangements which deliver on UK interests and provide maximum coverage across the full scope of our relationship with these countries.

The Government are aiming to bring some of the agreements negotiated with these states into effect by the end of the transition period in line with our approach to EU negotiations. Further details on the progress of these negotiations will be made available to Parliament as they develop. Indeed, our future relationship with these key partners is a Government priority.

[HCWS390]