Existing trade agreements if the UK leaves the EU without a deal/Switzerland-UK Mutual Recognition Agreement

We are writing to inform you the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox MP, has issued a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) setting out the current position of negotiations for Trade Continuity Agreements if the UK leaves the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement. I would also like to inform you that the Government has signed a Mutual Recognition Agreement with Switzerland, please see below for further information.

Written Ministerial Statement

A negotiated Withdrawal Agreement with the EU remains the Government’s top priority.  Nevertheless, we continue to prepare for all eventualities, including ‘no deal’. The Government has refocussed discussions with third countries to transition trade agreements to come into effect for day one after our EU exit, should the UK leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement.

The Government has signed trade agreements with Switzerland, Chile, the Faroe Islands, members of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Economic Partnership Agreement, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, some agreements will not be concluded in time and therefore will not be in place for exit day.

We advise businesses should familiarise themselves with the detailed EU Exit guidance available on gov.uk (including this new technical guidance) to understand how to prepare if the necessary arrangements for continuity are not in place by exit day. This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/how-to-prepare-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-with-no-deal#importing-and-exporting.

The Government will continue to inform Parliament and the public when agreements have been signed and will post details of completed agreements on gov.uk.

The WMS can be found at https://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements

Further guidance providing further information on the WMS can be found athttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/existing-trade-agreements-if-the-uk-leaves-the-eu-without-a-deal

Switzerland MRA

The Government is seeking to ensure continuity of the EU-third country mutual recognition agreements on conformity assessment (MRAs).  We have now signed agreements that will ensure continuity between the UK and Australia, New Zealand and the United States of the existing EU MRAs with these countries.

Last week we also signed a Trade Agreement with Switzerland that includes three product chapters on mutual recognition of inspections:

  1. Motor Vehicles (type approval)
  2. Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)
  3. Medicinal products, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspection and batch inspection

Businesses will, therefore, benefit from continuity of the EU-Switzerland MRA in these three sectors, which together cover around three-quarters of UK exports in the scope of the existing EU-Switzerland MRA, amounting to some £1.6bn of UK exports per year.

Discussions are ongoing with regard to the remaining product chapters of the current EU-Switzerland MRA.  Specifically, we have agreed with Switzerland – via a Memorandum of Understanding – to work together, alongside relevant regulatory bodies, to agree on arrangements that will allow for the continued recognition of conformity assessment bodies in the areas covered by these product chapters.

The relevant joint committee under the new Agreement will have the power to bring these arrangements into effect, with the aim of doing so on the date that the UK-Switzerland Trade Agreement comes into effect.

In terms of the practical impact for business, if these discussions are successful, this would deliver an outcome that is close to continuity of effect of the current EU-Switzerland MRA.  In the absence of any further agreement on the remaining chapters of the MRA, UK businesses would need – where third party testing is required – to get their products tested by a Swiss-recognised conformity assessment body (either in Switzerland or the EU).

An overview of the Trade Agreement, as well as the treaty text, parliamentary report and MoU are available via https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/uk-switzerland-trade-agreement



Note to readers: this communication has been issued by the office for Product Safety and Standards, EU Exit Team of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy