International Trade Secretary Liam Fox put pen to paper on the deal in the Swiss capital Bern yesterday, saying the agreement provides a “solid foundation” for a post-Brexit trading relationship. The Brexiter is under pressure to keep up the success with just 46 days to go until Britain is due to walk away from Brussels. Trade with Switzerland, which participates in the EU’s single market but is not a full member of bloc, is worth about £32 billion a year to the British economy and the deal means the UK will continue to operate on Brussels’s terms until a free trade agreement is signed.
Dr Fox praised his Swiss counterparts for working with Britain to get the deal agreed before Brexit Day.
He said: “Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that we are seeking continuity for.
“This is of huge economic importance to UK businesses so I’m delighted to be here in Bern ensuring continuity for 15,000 British exporters.
“Not only will this help to support jobs throughout the UK but it will also be a solid foundation for us to build an even stronger trading relationship with Switzerland as we leave the EU.”
The government is coming under increased scrutiny to make sure trade continues uninterrupted with time running out before the UK leaves the EU on March 29.
Yesterday, the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) director-general Carolyn Fairbairn labelled the current situation is an “emergency”.
Mrs Fairbairn highlighted the particular importance of Britain securing continuity of the EU’s recently signed deal with Japan.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The prospect is the day after Brexit those deals will disappear.”
The government is working to roll over existing free trade deals and has so far signed mutual recognition agreements with Australia and Japan.
Switzerland joins Chile, the Faroe Islands and parts of Southern and Eastern Africa which have been signed up to continuity agreements.
However the future relationship with dozens of countries across the rest of the globe, including the world’s biggest economies the US, China and the EU is still far from clear.
The CBI has also said about 40 trade deals across five continents are at risk of evaporating if the Department for Trade cannot secure a transition before Brexit.
CBI president John Allen, who is also chairman of Tesco, echoed Mrs Fairbairn’s warning.
Mr Allen said: ”If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, we could cease overnight to enjoy the benefits of tariff-free trade with, and preferential access to, markets of fundamental importance for British products and services, from Japan to Turkey.
“Individual businesses in every corner of the UK that trade with markets outside Europe would have tariffs worth hundreds of millions of pounds slapped on them instantaneously.
“Car companies risk being dropped from complex global supply chains that support these deals, and services firms risk losing vital protections that allow them to operate abroad.
“And by no longer being part of the EU’s trade deals, the UK will miss out on golden trade opportunities that have been years in the making.”