What the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement means for Mobility

The newly agreed UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement secures a key UK negotiating ask by ending freedom of movement. So, what do the new mobility arrangements mean for businesses working across Europe?

Temporary Entry

This will likely be the route that most ADS members will use when looking to facilitate the movement of engineers or other workforce between UK and EU sites. Short term visa-free business visits will be allowed within the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, but only for specific purposes including:

  • attending meetings, conferences and trade fairs
  • conducting research
  • purchasing goods or services
  • to set up a company or conduct intra-company transfers

Activities such as sales, may require a national work visa and secondees working in EU-based factories will be subject to a three-year limit.

It is important to note that the 90-day limit will apply to travel for both leisure and business purposes. Employees should therefore keep a record of every visit to each Schengen-area country, whether work trip or holiday, to ensure they do not exceed the limit within any 180-day period. When travelling to EU countries outside of the Schengen area, a separate 90-day rule will apply for each country except Ireland, where British nationals able to work in and visit the country in the same way as before. Further guidance is available on gov.uk.

Regarding travel documents, as well as their passport, it would be sensible for business travellers to carry with them a letter which sets out the duration of their trip, what they will be doing, how travel and other costs will be covered, as well as details of their employer.

Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications

Professional qualifications will no longer be automatically mutually recognised. This means that UK professionals will have to comply with qualification requirements in each EU member state they want to work in, which could mean requiring multiple licenses acquired through additional examinations or a demonstration of a certain amount of experience.

The Withdrawal Agreement protected the mutual recognition of professional qualifications for UK citizens already living in the EU before the end of the transition period but the loss of mutual recognition going forward will have major implications for UK businesses as it will now be harder and more expensive to provide services in the EU. Combined with the new entry rules set out above, there could be long-term problems for companies who have been accustomed to qualified personnel being able to travel freely between different sites across the EU and UK.

Social Security & Healthcare

There is better news in the realm of social security, with cross-border workers and employers only liable to pay contributions in one state at a time. Furthermore, UK and EU member states will be able to consider contributions paid into each other’s social security systems for relevant periods of work or residence when determining entitlements to state benefits.

On healthcare specifically, some individuals (including short term visitors) will be entitled to reciprocal state-provided healthcare cover, often for free, like that previously provided by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Existing EHIC cards can be used until their expiry date whilst a specialised committee on social security decides on whether alternative documentation will be needed going forward.

For further information on the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, please visit ADS’s Brexit Hub.