Reviewed in November 2020. Content will be updated as negotiations develop.

Northern Ireland will leave the European Union single market in services on 1 January 2021 together with the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK single market in services. The Northern Ireland Protocol which provides for special treatment for trade in goods in Northern Ireland does not apply to services. The EU UK negotiations are ongoing whether or not there is an EU UK future relationship agreement before the end of 2020 however there will be changes to some of the guarantees and rules that apply at present in maintenance of the Common Travel Area (CTA). The UK government and the Government of Ireland have committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA). Rights to work, study and access social security and public services will be preserved ona. reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals in the other’s state. 

Trade in Services – What Next?

This content will be subject to change and will be updated if agreements are reached as part of a Free Trade Agreement.

If your business provides services cross-border on the island of Ireland or to GB, you should review and act on any changes in the rules on doing business that may apply to you from 1 January 2021. For example, some key areas that may change if there is no agreement reached on services are: 

  • Establishing and structuring your business
  • GDPR and Data Protection
  • Recognition of Professional Qualifications
  • Public Procurement
  • E-Commerce
  • VAT
  • Consumer Protection

Both the Irish Government and UK Government have published key information and guidance on services:

Some Key Areas Explored…

Establishing and Structuring your Business

Based in Northern Ireland – The Government has updated its guidance on structuring businesses in the European Union and EEA after 1 January 2021. It contains useful links to Companies house resources. For more information, click here.

If your business or group includes a company formed in Ireland, new requirements may apply, unless it has a director who is an Irish citizen. 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. See the guidance on the Irish Companies Registration Office website here.

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. For more information, click here.

Guidance on changes in companies registration procedures is available from the UK Companies House here.

GDPR and Data Protection

Assess current arrangements and develop plans to ensure compliance with GDPR and other relevant EU Directives and Regulations for data transfers to third countries in the event of no UK data adequacy decision being made. 

GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the EU wide regulation that contains the data protection rules. These common rules set out the obligations of businesses and organisations that acquire, hold, control or deal with personal data and the rights of persons to whom the information relates. 

Data Protection – Data Protection is about the privacy of information (data) relating to people. It covers any information collected, held or used by a business or organisation that relates to a living person in any way that is held in electronic form or in a physical filing system. 

Data Transfers – The new United Kingdom GDPR rules will apply to Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021. Therefore, the position for data transfers to Northern Ireland, whether or not there is an adequacy decision (“deal” or “no-deal”), will be the same as that for data transfers to Great Britain. If your business involves the transfer of personal data from Ireland to the UK (including Northern Ireland), and no adequacy decision has been made by the EU, you will need to act to ensure that alternative protections are put in place so that you can continue to transfer personal data after 1 January 2021. 

The Data Protection Commission has published guidance and FAQs about the transfer of personal data from Ireland to the UK (including Northern Ireland) in the event of a “no-deal” on data. Further information can be found on their website

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published guidance and FAQs about the transfer of personal data from UK (including Northern Ireland) to Ireland/EU in the event of a “no-deal” on data. For more information, click here.

Additional information is available in the European Commission Brexit Readiness Notice in the field of Data Protection. For more information, click here.

Recognition of Qualifications

The EU legislation on the recognition of qualifications will cease to apply to the United Kingdom as and from 1 January 2021. 

UK Obtained Qualifications in Ireland

The Irish Government guidance indicates that after the transition period ends, there may be implications for people working in Ireland who obtained professional qualifications in the UK, or who seek to have a UK qualification recognised in Ireland. If you have already had these qualifications recognised by the relevant regulator, there will be no change and you can continue to practise in Ireland or elsewhere. For more information, click here.

Ireland Obtained Qualifications in UK/Northern Ireland

If you hold Irish qualifications and plan to work or practise a regulated profession or activity in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom, you should consider seeking recognition of your qualifications there before 1 January 2021. Registration applications and queries should be addressed to the relevant professional or qualification body or regulator. In the case of some bodis, the regulator is local to Northern ireland, while in other cases, there is a UK wide regulator. For more information, click here.

Public Procurement

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 will apply after 1 January 2021. The EU rules on the procurement of public sector and certain utilities will no longer apply to the United Kingdom. 

The UK is joining the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Government Procurement, of which the European Union is already a member. This provides a level of continued access to public sector contracts in other EU states. However, the terms and conditions of access as well as the enforceability of the rules, will change. Businesses that may be 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 Agreement on Government Procurement. To view this guidance, click here

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 will apply after 1 January 2021. The EU rules on the procurement of public sector and certain utilities contracts will no longer apply to the United Kingdom. 

The UK is joining the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Government Procurement, of which the European Union is already a member. This provides for some level of continued access to public sector contracts in the UK. The terms and conditions of access as well ass the enforceability of the rules will change. 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 published a detailed information note on the effect of Brexit on public sector contracts. It also discusses the Agreement on Government Procurement which is due to apply between the United Kingdom and European Union after 1 January 2021. It is available for download here

The OGP has established a dedicated Brexit contact point. For Brexit related queries, please email Brexit@opg.gov.ie.

E-Commerce

Digital services are services that are delivered over the internet or through other electronic networks. They are commonly automated and require little or no human intervention. They include such things as apps, e-books, games, cloud-based software, and music streaming websites. 

At the end of the transition period, the eCommerce Directive will no longer apply to the UK. You should begin to prepare for these changes now. 

For companies based in Northern Ireland, click here for more information.

For companies based in Ireland, click here for more information. 

Additional information is available in the European Commission Brexit Readiness Notice in the field of Electronic Commerce and Net Neutrality. To view this guidance, click here

VAT

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland will hold a dual position with regard to VAT, customs and the single market. 

For services, Northern ireland will follow UK VAT rules and not EU VAT rules. However, EU VAT law will continue to apply in relation to the movement of goods.

Therefore, Northern Ireland businesses could have to operate a dual set of VAT rules – EU VAT rules for goods and UK VAT rules for services. 

For companies based in Northern Ireland, click here for more information.

For companies based in Ireland, click here for more information. 

Additional information is available in the European Commission Brexit Readiness Notice in the field of VAT for Services. To view this guidance, click here.

Consumer Protection

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, will also 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. 

For companies based in both Ireland & Northern Ireland, click here for more information.