EU Exit: Northern Ireland professional services sector - key actions

News article

Important steps Northern Ireland professional services sector businesses can take now to prepare for 1 January 2021

New business rules start on 1 January 2021. If you are a Northern Ireland professional services sector business, there are important steps that you can take now to prepare for changes. This information highlights some of the most important actions.

For further guidance, access the UK government Transition Checker for a personalised list of actions.

1. Check if a visa or work permit is required to travel to the EU for work purposes and apply if necessary
From 1 January 2020 there may be changes to the way you travel to the EU and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), as freedom of movement between the UK and the EU and EFTA will have ended.

It is therefore important to ensure that you check the entry requirements of the EU / EFTA Member State you are going to ahead of time and apply for any necessary documentation in advance. See more on business travel: extra requirements.

UK and Irish citizens will continue to be able to exercise their rights under the Common Travel Area agreement.

2. Get your qualifications recognised by EU regulators to be able to practise or service clients in the EU
Starting the process to get your professional qualifications recognised by EU regulators by 31 December 2020 may help you to continue to practise your profession (eg accountancy, engineering) in the EU.

If you need to take action to secure the recognition of your professional qualification in Ireland, these sources can help you:

  • NARIC Ireland - the information centre for academic and professional qualification recognition in Ireland
  • Irish Point of Single Contact - provides general information on the procedures required for Irish and EU businesses who intend operating in Ireland
  • UK NARIC - currently the UK’s national information centre for professional qualifications

Under the Common Travel Area, the recognition of professional qualifications is an essential facilitator of the right to work, so both the UK and Irish Governments have made a commitment to ensure that appropriate arrangements for recognition are in place in the UK and Ireland from the 1 January 2021.

See more on UK businesses selling services into the EU.

3. Comply with the new immigration policies for recruiting from overseas
The way you hire from the EU is changing. From 1 January 2021, you will need to register as a licensed provider to hire eligible people from outside the UK. This does not apply to Irish citizens.

It is therefore crucial that you familiarise yourself with the requirements, processes and procedures.

Read more on business and the future of immigration in 2021.

4. Signpost your employees to the EU Settlement Scheme
EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their family members can apply to continue living in the UK after June 2021 under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If necessary, you and your employees should familiarise yourselves with the relevant eligibility requirements to ensure they are able to stay and work in the UK, if they are eligible under the scheme.

See more on apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status).

5. If the UK is not determined as equivalent on accounting, UK businesses listed on other EEA markets will also need to comply with the relevant EEA reporting requirements
For example, companies preparing accounts using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) may need to state that their accounts also comply with IFRS as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

In addition, some reporting and filing exemptions will no longer be available. Companies affected should check with the relevant EEA Member State Competent Authority.

See letters that set out the changes to the UK’s corporate reporting framework from 1 January 2021.

6. If you provide online services to countries in the EEA, check if rules in those countries newly apply
In particular:

  • check whether you are in scope
  • check where your service is based
  • check for new legal requirements
  • consider any further steps that would help you prepare for the changes

Read more about the eCommerce Directive after the transition period.

7. Be prepared on data protection and data transfers
UK businesses need to be ready should there be no agreement on data flows as part of the EU discussions. If your business receives personal data from the EU (including Ireland), you should put alternative transfer mechanisms in place to enable continued and uninterrupted legal flow of personal data from your EU counterparts.

There are five actions which you can take now to prepare for no agreement with the EU:

  • understand whether your business has personal data flowing from the EEA
  • understand who is transferring them such data
  • discuss with the EEA business counterpart the best alternative transfer mechanism to adopt in order to maintain this data flow
  • ensure the mitigation measures is put in place, if necessary, by 1 January 2021
  • read the Information Commissioner’s guidance on Data Protection at the end of the transition period

8. Replace .eu top level domain names
From 1 January 2021, you will no longer be able to register or renew .eu domain names if:

  • your organisation, business or undertaking is established in the UK but not in the EU/European Economic Area (EEA)
  • you live outside of the EU/EEA and are not an EU/EEA citizen

Read the latest notice from the European Commission on .eu domain names.

9. Check the requirements for providing services cross-border or establishing and operating a business in the EU, including branches or subsidiaries, as additional requirements or restrictions may apply
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.

UK citizens that own or run business operations in an EU country may need to comply with different requirements (those which currently apply to non-EU countries) depending on the country and sector they are operating in.

Read more on rules for trading in services with Ireland from 1 January 2021.

Read more on structuring your business.

10. If you provide legal services, check practice rights in the EU, as UK lawyers and firms will need to comply with the national framework for foreign lawyers in each EU jurisdiction
Contact the regulator in the country you intend to work in.

See more on UK lawyers practising in the EU, EEA-EFTA and Switzerland after 1 January 2021.

First published 10 December 2020