Recognition of professional qualifications between the UK and EU and on travelling to do business within the EU
Recognition of UK professional qualifications with the EU.
The UK’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU took effect from 11.00pm on 31 December 2020. The main FTA contains 1,246 pages although a useful summary has been published which highlights the key aspects of the deal. There is also a useful series of questions and answers on the European Commission’s website which covers various aspects of the deal.
This article focuses on the recognition of professional qualifications and on travelling to do business in the EU.
Recognition of professional qualifications
The FTA at pages 97 to 98 with an annex on pages 770 to 774 outlines the framework agreed by the UK and EU for the recognition of professional qualifications which is based on the approach taken in the EU’s recent FTA agreements. It does however make improvements on those agreements, which are designed to make the system more flexible and easier for regulatory authorities to use. These provisions facilitate those responsible for professional qualifications in the UK and EU member states to submit joint recommendations to the UK-EU Partnership Council for profession-specific arrangements. Those responsible may be either the professional bodies or authorities, which are relevant for the sector of activity concerned in their respective territories. Such joint recommendations shall be supported by an evidence-based assessment of:
- the economic value of an envisaged arrangement on the recognition of professional
- the compatibility of the respective regimes (i.e. the extent to which the requirements applied by each Party for the authorisation, licensing, operation and certification are compatible).
On receipt of a joint recommendation, the Partnership Council (probably via a committee mechanism) shall make a determination within a reasonable period of time. If 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.
From early 2021, it is the intention of the UK government to provide help and guidance to UK regulatory authorities and professional bodies to help them benefit from these provisions as well as other recognition paths. ICAS has already been, and will continue to be, involved in such discussions to seek to help facilitate appropriate recognition of the CA qualification. It is hoped that ICAS membership of the Common Content project, which also involves professional accountancy bodies in 11 EU member states, will prove beneficial in this regard.
The FTA clarifies that the provisions on professional qualifications are without prejudice to alternative arrangements that the UK may agree with the EU, allowing for improved mechanisms to be agreed in future. Agreements will be negotiated on a profession-by-profession basis.
CAs will need their UK professional qualification officially recognised if they want to work in a profession that is regulated in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and will need to be recognised by the appropriate regulator in each country where they intend to work. This is necessary even when providing temporary or occasional professional services. Until mutual recognition agreements have been put in place, CAs should continue following GOV.UK advice on using their qualifications in an EU member state. This involves checking the European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database (REGPROF) to find out if your profession is regulated and then contacting the relevant country to find out how to get your professional qualification recognised.
CAs already working in EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein do not have to do anything if their qualification has already been officially recognised (where required) by the relevant regulator in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The regulator’s decision to recognise their qualification remains valid.
Are accountancy services regulated in the EU?
Only statutory audit is regulated in all EU member states. Member states can choose if, and how, they regulate professionals providing accountancy and advisory services. Belgium and France, for example, regulate accountancy and tax services and protect the titles ‘accountant’ and ‘tax advisor’. Accountancy Europe provides further information on this in their publication 'How is access to the European accountancy profession regulated?’
In the UK, of course, neither terms are protected, so in principle everyone could call themselves ‘accountant’ and provide accountancy services.
There are different rules that apply to auditors. Reference should be made to the guidance.
Providing services in the EU and EFTA countries
Information on providing services in individual countries can be found in the UK Government’s providing services and travelling for business guides.
Business meetings/attending conferences
If you are travelling to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for less than 90 days in a 180-day period, you may be able to do some things without getting a visa or work permit, for example going to a business meeting or attending a conference.
A visa, work permit or other documentation may be needed if you are planning to stay for longer than 90 days in a 180-day period, or if you will be doing any of the following:
- transferring from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country (‘intra-corporate transfer’), even for a short period of time
- carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which your employer has no presence
- providing services in another country as a self-employed person.
Information on business travel requirements (including attendance at meetings and conferences) can be found on the UK Government’s website.
ICAS Members are advised to check the entry requirements and rules of the country that they plan to visit to find out if a visa or work permit will be required (see UK Government Foreign Travel Advice).
More information on the impact of the UK leaving the EU can be found at: www.gov.uk/transition.