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

Guide

Last updated 29 December 2020

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 from 1 January 2021. 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.

VAT on sales of digital services

Businesses will no longer be able to use the UK’s VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) to declare sales of digital services to EU consumers after 31 December 2020.

If you wish to continue to use MOSS from 1 January 2021, you will 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 European Economic Area.

From 1 January 2021, for audit firms established and approved in EEA states under the Audit Directive, a majority of the ownership and management bodies must be ‘qualified persons’.

From 1 January 2021, ‘qualified persons’ will not include UK-qualified auditors or UK-registered firms. The definition will continue to include EEA-qualified auditors and EEA-registered audit firms.

Business travel and entry requirements

As part of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK and the EU have agreed provisions to facilitate the movement of business travellers, including those who supply services.

You can read advice about travelling to specific countries, including travel entry requirements and how to stay safe while you’re there.

To find out more about going abroad for work, check the guidance for travellers visiting Europe.

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 from 1 January 2021.

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’ll need to have your UK professional qualification officially recognised if you want to work in a profession that is regulated in the EEA or Switzerland. It will need to be recognised by the appropriate regulator for your profession in each country where you intend to work. You’ll 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.

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.

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.