Britain clutched a trade agreement with Switzerland on Monday, allowing businesses to continue trading freely after Britain leaves the European Union (EU).
The trade continuity agreement, replicating existing EU-Switzerland arrangements as far as possible, will come into effect in January 2021 as soon as the transition period ends as stipulated in the Brexit withdraw agreement, or on March 29 this year if the Britain leaves the EU without a deal.
As an EU member, Britain benefits from around 40 existing EU trade agreements that cover more than 70 countries. In the run-up to Brexit, Britain has raced against the clock to replicate such deals to prepare for its departure from the EU.
Its continuity agreement with Switzerland is considered to be the biggest one so far as Switzerland is Britain's third largest non-EU market.
The agreement simplifies trade and allows businesses to continue trading freely, without any additional tariffs. It continues the elimination of duties on the vast majority of goods traded between Britain and Switzerland, according to a statement from the British Department of International Trade.
The British vehicles sector could avoid up to 8 million pounds a year in tariff charges on their exports, while aluminium exporters could avoid up to 4 million pounds and precious stones and metals exporters could also avoid up to 4 million pounds, the statement said.
Consumers in Britain will continue to benefit from more choice and lower prices on goods imported from Switzerland, such as clocks, watches and pharmaceutical products, it said.
Switzerland is one of the most valuable trading partners that Britain is seeking continuity for, accounting for more than 32 billion pounds' worth of trade a year, Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said, describing the deal "of huge economic importance to UK businesses."