The UK has left the EU and new rules for business with the EU came into force on 1 January 2021. Even though a deal has been secured, doing business with Europe has changed.
New rules on data, intellectual property and business travel to the EU apply to all UK-based businesses, which means that unless you have checked that you are ready, your business may face disruption.
Here are some key actions to take in order to keep your business moving:
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement contains a six-month bridging mechanism that allows the continued free flow of information. The European Commission announced on 19 February a draft decision to recognise the UK’s high data protection standards. This would allow for personal data to continue to flow freely from the EU and wider European Economic Area (EEA) to the UK.
This means that you'll need to be prepared to take action on data protection once the bridging mechanism ends on 30 June 2021.
- Consider checking the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for guidance on data protection requirements.
- Consider reassuring your EEA clients of the UK’s commitment to high standards of protection for personal data, which includes the same regulatory framework for data protection as the EU.
Further actions to take
- If you hold a .eu domain, check whether you need to replace it.
- If you provide online services to countries in the EEA, check if rules in those countries now apply.
- If your business is a Digital Service Provider to the EU / EEA, make sure you comply with the Network and Information Systems Regulations and associated EU Directive.
- Watch for further changes on GOV.UK.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) converted almost 1.4 million EU trademarks and 700,000 EU designs to comparable UK rights on 31 December, 2020. Consider if any changes to the eligibility for unregistered design rights in the UK and EU will impact your business.
Businesses that own IP rights (for example, a trademark) may wish to seek legal advice if their IP-protected goods are parallel exported from the UK to the EEA.
- If you currently export IP-protected goods to the EEA, you may need to contact the rights holder to continue trading.
- Check the UK Government's formal consultation, which will be published in early 2021.
Business travel to the EU
Business travellers may need to apply for a visa, work permit or other documentation before travelling to the EU / EEA / Switzerland. Visit the specific country guides and the EU Immigration Portal to find out the entry requirements for the country/countries you are travelling to and how to apply for a visa and/or work permit, if needed.
You will need a visa or work permit if you are:
- Taking part in activities or providing services that are not covered by a country’s visa-waiver rules
- Staying for more than 90 days in a 180-day period for any reason
- Transferring from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country (‘intra-corporate transfer’), even for a short period of time
- Carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which your employer has no presence
- Providing services in another country as a self-employed person
You need to be aware of new personal allowance rules when travelling between Great Britain and the EU. For information on allowances and to make any necessary declarations, visit gov.uk/duty-free-goods.
Check if you will still have to pay UK Income Tax, and find out whether you will pay social security contributions in the country where you work or in the UK. Check the guidance at gov.uk/working-abroad/tax.
To continue to practice or service clients in the EU (e.g. for engineering, teaching or legal services), make sure your qualifications are recognised by the relevant regulatory or professional body. Check the European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database (REGPROF) to find out if your profession is regulated. Then contact the relevant country to find out how to get your professional qualification recognised.
If you’re responsible for a business that sends employees abroad, check that your business insurance is fit for purpose.
And be sure to check the new rules that apply to all travel right now:
- Check COVID-19 restrictions
- Check your passport’s expiry date
- Get travel insurance that covers your healthcare
- Check you have the right driving documents
For more information on business travel, check out our guide to business travel for UK businesses.
You can find out which rules affect you and get personalised actions for your business by using the Brexit Checker Tool at gov.uk/transition. Ongoing information is available by signing up to the Post Transition Business Bulletin.