End of the Brexit transition period and the UK/EU Trade Agreement

At 11 pm on 31 December, the Brexit transition period will finish and this will mark the end of freedom of movement between the United Kingdom and European Union. For EU nationals already resident in the UK, they can continue to live and work in the UK; however they must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled or settled status before 30 June 2021. For British citizens living in the EU, they must register for the relevant residence permit available in their jurisdiction. In most countries, British citizens should also have until 30 June 2021 to make an application.

From 1 January 2021, the UK will become a third country to the EU. On 24 December, the UK and the EU agreed a Trade Agreement which set out the terms on which the UK will trade with the EU. Although there is not a chapter on mobility as part of the Trade Agreement, there are some provisions regarding the temporary movement of those carrying out business-related activities between the UK and EU. The provisions are specific and are separated into four areas:

  • Engaging in intra-corporate activities
  • Contract Service Suppliers (CSS)
  • Independent Professionals (IP)
  • General short-term business visitors

Each area has its own set of provisions and parameters, particularly for CSS and IP which will be further limited to certain specific sectors. Under each area, some EU countries will retain further control over the permitted activities, therefore businesses should not assume that activities which are permitted in one country, apply to another country, even if geographically close to one another. As with other provisions within the Trade Agreement, the areas must be ratified into domestic law which may cause a delay in implementation. When seeking to rely on the above four areas, businesses must carefully examine both the EU law and domestic implementation of these provisions to ensure their business meets the qualifying criteria. In most instances, some form of approval will likely be required from the respective domestic authority prior to partaking in such activities and each area is time-bound, depending on the activity undertaken. Individuals wishing to permanently relocate to the UK or an EU member state will fall under domestic immigration law of that particular jurisdiction and legal advice should be undertaken prior to any relocation taking place.

A welcome part of the Trade Agreement is a defined list of short-term business visitor activities which may be performed within the UK and EU. As with the other areas, some countries have retained an element of control over certain activities, requiring prior authorisation or further restrictions. Like with CSS, IP and intra-corporate activities, it should not be assumed that business activities in one member state can automatically be performed in another and businesses must pay due care and attention when sending business travellers into the UK and EU. The activity list is nonetheless welcome to many businesses as it provides some clarity on the permissible activities for business visitors, once international travel resumes post-Covid. It should be noted that the 90-day rule will remain in place for business travellers, meaning individuals must restrict their travel into the EU to 90-days in any rolling 180-day period. For frequent business travellers, this will involve further administration to ensure this 90-day limit is not breached.