On Monday 25 February, UK Minister Christopher Heaton-Harris and Swiss State Secretary Mario Gattiker signed a mutual agreement on the protection of their citizens' rights in each other's country.
What was agreed?
Following on from preliminary discussions in December 2018, Switzerland and the UK have now formally agreed that both Swiss and British citizens will retain the rights given to them under the existing Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons ("AFMP") between Switzerland and the EU, even after the UK has left the EU. The agreement provides much needed certainty for British citizens currently living and working in Switzerland, and likewise Swiss citizens in the UK, as it deals with rights of residence and permission to work as well as issues such as healthcare and the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Upon signing, it was announced that the continuance of the status quo is "to protect the rights of UK and Swiss nationals who have chosen to call each other's country's home" and to mitigate any undesirable consequences of an immediate change in status (even if only on a temporary basis) should the UK leave the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019.
When will it come into effect?
As with other agreements recently entered into between the UK and Switzerland, this agreement will enter into force when the existing EU AFMP is no longer applicable. If a deal is reached between the UK and the EU and Brexit happens on 29 March 2019, the existing EU AFMP will stay in place until the end of the transition period, which is so far anticipated to be 31 December 2020. Only after this time will the new agreement take effect. If, however, the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal, the new agreement will come into force immediately.