There is no distinction between GB and Northern Ireland in relation to trade in services. The UK has replaced most existing EU regulations with new similar or identical rules.
What is the impact of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on services?
There is no distinction between GB and Northern Ireland in relation to trade in services. The special provisions of the Northern Ireland protocol apply only to goods.
In most sectors, there have been few immediate direct changes. Most of the rules about doing business in the other jurisdiction remain highly aligned and similar. The UK has replaced most existing EU regulations with new similar or identical rules.
- The Common Travel Area preserves the rights of Irish and UK citizens to travel to live and work in the other jurisdiction. They continue to have immediate settled status, with guarantees for many health, social services and other rights.
- EU 26 (i.e., non-Irish non-UK citizens) are subject to immigration controls in the UK. UK citizens are subject to immigration controls in EU 26 countries (all of the EU except Ireland). There is visa-free movement for social visits and some short-term business reasons, the details of which will depend on the immigration rules in the country concerned.
- In some areas, many involving larger-scale providers, such as in certain financial services, communications, transport and a few other sectors, there are single EU-wide authorisations and licences which no longer apply to the UK and are no longer available to UK-based businesses. These kinds of service providers would require a new authorisation to do business cross-border.
- In road transport, the pre-existing rights of providers to undertake cross-border services has been confirmed but with new more limited rights in relation to cabotage (journeys within the other jurisdiction).
- The EU wide system of qualifications recognition no longer applies. However, the Irish and UK governments have pledged to have their regulators cooperate to continue to recognise qualifications granted in the other jurisdiction insofar as possible.
- The TCA continued the mutual recognition of EU and UK data protection regulation until 1 July 2021, to allow time to conclude a long-term recognition arrangement. In June 2021 the EU Commission and UK Government adopted decisions which continue to allow mutual recognition of each other’s data protection regulations in most cases.
What does it mean for establishing and structuring my business?
If you're based in Northern Ireland: The Government has updated its guidance on structuring businesses in the European Union and EEA after 1 January 2021. GOV.UK has a collection of guidance about registering, filing and disclosing information with Companies House.
If your business or group includes a company formed in Ireland, new requirements apply, unless it has a director who is resident in Ireland or another EEA State (the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein). You may need to obtain a bond to the value of €25,000 or a certificate from the Irish Revenue Commissioners to certify that your company has a real and continuous link with a business in Ireland. The Irish Companies Registration Office website provides further guidance.
If you're based in Ireland: Businesses in Ireland whose group includes a UK incorporated company or branch should review the UK Government’s guidance on company registration changes from 1 January 2021.
Guidance on changes in companies registration procedures for Non-UK companies is available from the UK Companies House.
What does it mean if I hold, rely on, or intend to tender for public sector contracts?
If you're based in Northern Ireland: EU/EEA Public Sector Contracts - Businesses that hold, rely on, or intend to tender for public sector contracts in Ireland or another EU state, should take note of the important changes that now apply, i.e., after 1 January 2021. The EU rules on the procurement of public sector and certain utilities contracts will no longer apply to the UK. The UK has joined the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Government Procurement, of which the European Union is already a member. This provides a significant level of continued access to public sector contracts in other EU states. However, the terms and conditions of access as well the enforceability of the rules, have changed. Businesses that are affected should review the position as it applies to them and consider what steps they may need to take. The UK Government has published guidance on overseas public sector contracts after 1 January 2021. The guidance includes important links that provide detailed information on the Government Procurement Agreement.
If you're based in Ireland: UK Public Sector Contracts - Businesses in Ireland that hold, rely on, or intend to tender for public sector contracts in Northern Ireland or Great Britain should take note of the important changes that now apply, i.e., after 1 January 2021. The EU rules on the procurement of public sector and certain utilities contracts no longer apply to the UK. The UK has joined the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Government Procurement, of which the EU is already a member. This provides a significant level of continued access to public sector contracts in the UK. The terms and conditions of access as well as the enforceability of the rules have changed. Businesses that may be affected should investigate the position as it applies to their business, and consider whether any steps are required. The Office of Government Procurement has a team available to support with all aspects of the public procurement process and work closely with the business community to promote procurement opportunities for SMEs. For queries email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What does it mean for VAT rules?
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland holds a dual position with regard to VAT, customs and the single market.
For services, Northern Ireland follows UK VAT rules and not EU VAT rules. However, EU VAT law continues to apply in relation to the movement of goods. Therefore, Northern Ireland businesses have to operate a dual set of VAT rules - EU VAT rules for cross-border goods and UK VAT rules for cross-border services.
• For companies based in Northern Ireland, GOV.UK has information about how to work out your place of supply of services for VAT rules
• For companies based in Ireland, revenue.ie has information about place of supply rules for services
• Additional information is available in the European Commission notice withdrawal of the UK and EU rules in the field of VAT for services. This is a PDF document.
• If you wish to explore VAT in more depth we have a dedicated VAT section on our Cross-Border Trade Hub which will go into more detail for B2B and B2C businesses.
What does it mean for consumer protection rules?
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol certain EU laws, including the requirements of the General Product Safety Directive, Safety of Toys Directive, Low Voltage Directive, Appliances Burning Gaseous Fuels Regulations and Personal Protective Equipment Regulations, which apply in the Republic of Ireland, continue to apply to economic operators and products in Northern Ireland.
This means that products placed on the market in Northern Ireland will have to continue to comply with the applicable EU legislation after 31 December 2020.
- In Northern Ireland: Visit the Consumer Council website for independent support and advice for businesses.
- In Ireland: Visit the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website for more information about Brexit and your business.
Our Cross-Border Trade Hub has more information about:
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Article reviewed: March 2023