Overview: Selling services to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein from 1 January 2021

Guide

Last updated 16 June 2021

The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded with the EU, ensures that UK firms in a variety of service sectors can continue to access the EU market, including as business travellers and cross-border services suppliers or investors, while being treated no less favourably than either EU businesses or competitors from third countries.

While the Agreement sets out clear expectations of the treatment and level of access to each Party’s domestic market, there will still be some changes for business as a result of no longer operating under European Economic Area (EEA) regulation covering cross-border trade in services. These changes will be different for each sector and differ in each member state of the EU.

Trade regulations

If you’re a UK business or professional providing services or investing in the EEA or Switzerland, you’ll need to check the national regulations of the country you’re doing business in to understand how best to operate.

See the providing services guides to each country for more information.

Trade reservations

To sell or provide services to customers in the EU, you must follow local laws. If in doubt, you should get professional advice.

Reservations are part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. They reserve the right of each party to keep or make new laws restricting investment, or the sale of services, in ways that would otherwise breach the rules in the agreement.

Check which reservations apply to the sale of services from the UK to the EU. This includes an interactive tool to find reservations that are already in place.

VAT on sales of digital services

To use the UK’s VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) to declare sales of digital services to EU consumers, businesses need to register for MOSS in an EU member state.

Find out more about paying VAT on sales of digital services.

Establishing and structuring your business

If you have a UK business, you might face restrictions on your ability to own, manage or direct a company registered in an EEA country or Switzerland from 1 January 2021.

You should be prepared for:

  • additional requirements on the nationality or residency of senior managers or directors
  • limits on the amount of equity that can be held by non-nationals

UK companies and limited liability partnerships that have their central administration or principal place of business in certain EU member states may no longer have their limited liability recognised.

Find out more about structuring your business from 1 January 2021.

Sector-specific information

If you’re a UK citizen with questions about your legal position in any sector, you should:

  • get professional advice
  • contact the government of the EEA country where you own, manage or direct a company for more information

Auditors

You may need to restructure the ownership and management of your audit firm if it is based in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

For audit firms established and approved in EEA countries under the EU Audit Directive, a majority of the ownership and management bodies must be ‘qualified persons’.

‘Qualified persons’ do not include UK-qualified auditors or UK-registered firms. They must be EEA-qualified auditors and audit firms registered in the EEA.

Business travel and entry requirements

Entry requirements vary. UK business travellers and service providers may need a visa, work permit or other documentation. You should check the rules of the Member State(s) you are visiting to find out if you need to apply.

Find travel to Europe for work guidance for detailed information on:

  • types of visa and work permit routes available
  • exemptions that may apply to you or the activity you plan to undertake

Further guidance on providing services in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland is available.

Check which actions travellers visiting Europe need to take.

Social security payments for employees

Find out if you need to pay National Insurance in the UK or social security contributions in the EEA and Switzerland.

Recognition of professional qualifications

The UK and the EU have agreed a comprehensive free trade agreement. As part of this deal, authorities responsible for professional qualifications in the UK and EU member states will be able to submit joint recommendations to the UK-EU Partnership Council for profession-specific arrangements.

Once approved, these mutual recognition agreements would provide routes for UK professionals to have their qualifications recognised in the jurisdiction of an EU member state, and vice versa.

You need to have your UK professional qualification officially recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It needs to be recognised by the appropriate regulator for your profession in each country where you intend to work. You need to do this even if you’re providing temporary or occasional professional services.

Until mutual recognition agreements have been put in place, UK-qualified professionals should continue following GOV.UK advice on using their qualifications in an EU member state.

If you have not had your qualification recognised, contact the UK Centre of Professional Qualifications (UK CPQ).

The UK CPQ provides practical assistance and advice to:

  • professionals who qualified overseas and are interested in working in the UK
  • UK professionals seeking to practise overseas

Professionals already working in an EEA country or Switzerland

You don’t have to do anything if your qualification has already been officially recognised by the relevant regulator in an EEA country or Switzerland. The regulator’s decision to recognise your qualification will remain valid after the transition period.

Start working in an EEA country or Switzerland

Check the European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database (REGPROF) to find out if your profession is regulated. Then contact the single point of contact for each EEA country, to find out how to get your professional qualification recognised.

The UK CPQ can help you identify the relevant regulator in the country in which you wish to work.

You can find out more information about individual countries in the selling services country guides.

Lawyers and auditors

There are different rules if you’re a lawyer or an auditor.

Find out what to do if you’re an auditor.

Find out what to do if you’re a lawyer.

You can find out more information about individual countries in the providing services country guides.

Data transfer and GDPR

As part of the wider UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the free flow of personal data from the EEA to the UK will continue after the transition period for no longer than six months, until adequacy decisions come into effect.

As a sensible precaution before and during this six month period, it is recommended that you work with EEA organisations who transfer personal data to you to put in place alternative transfer mechanisms to safeguard against any interruption to the free flow of EU to UK personal data.

Read guidance on using data in your personal business or other organisation from 1 January 2021.