Providing Services Post-Brexit

In this section: selling services, mutual recognition of professional services, travelling for business, work permits, financial services

The agreement makes very limited provision for the trade in services. The UK and the EU have agreed to make commitments on market access for services, prohibiting discrimination and no requirement for a local presence in a member state before services can be provided. The agreement also confirms a most-favoured nation clause between the UK and EU which will mean that if either party offers more generous terms to other countries in the future those terms will be automatically applied to the UK-EU agreement. However, the detailed annexes at the back of the agreement confirms that these commitments will be subject to a wide range of exemptions which typically will vary by member state.

The agreement confirms that mutual recognition of professional qualifications will end. This means that providers will need to conform to the qualification requirements in each EU member country they wish to work in. Although the agreement includes a mechanism for qualifications to be recognised in future, there is currently no guarantee that this will happen. The mutual recognition of professional qualifications for UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens residing in the UK before the end of the transition period remain protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.

The agreement confirms that visa-free short-term business trips will be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period. The list of activities permitted in the agreement for short-term business visitor are limited to:

  • Meetings and consultations

  • Research and design

  • Marketing research

  • Training seminars

  • Trade fairs and exhibitions

  • Sales (taking orders, negotiating sales or entering into an agreement, but not supplying the goods or services themselves)

  • Purchasing goods or services

  • After-sales or after-lease service (e.g. repair and maintenance)

  • Commercial transactions (e.g. insurers, bankers)

  • Tourism personnel (e.g. tour operators, guides)

Those professionals whose activities fall outside those permitted in the agreement are unlikely to benefit from visa-free business trip. Furthermore, individual member states may have additional requirements or restrictions. For example, Austria requires a work permit for market research.

Work trips will also be permitted for establishment purposes, including intra-company transfers (who can be accompanied by their partners and dependents) and contract fulfilment (up to 1 year).

The agreement does not include equivalence (recognising each other’s regulations) for financial services with market access arrangements for UK and EU financial services companies based on unilateral decisions by UK and the EU, rather than an explicit provision in the trade agreement. It remains unclear whether this will impact UK firms’ access to finance or other financial products and services. The UK and the EU have agreed a non-binding memorandum to establish a framework for regulatory co-operation which may help to firm up agreements on a system of equivalence over the coming months.

Special rules will apply for delivery services, telecoms, financial services, legal services, digital trade. For example, the agreement includes a clause to provide scope for telecoms providers to charge for mobile roaming.