EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

The EU and the United Kingdom have reached an agreement on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which provisionally applies as from 1st January 2021 and entered into force on 1 May 2021.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement covers not just trade in goods, services, investment, public procurement and IPR, but also a broad range of other key areas in the EU's interest, such as, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, and social security coordination. The rules on trade and investment are underpinned by comprehensive commitments on level playing field and sustainable development.

  • It provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas on all goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin.
  • It allows EU investors to establish their companies in the territory of the UK and operate them freely in most sectors.
  • It provides market access beyond that agreed with Japan, for example, and includes regulatory provisions for many key service sectors.
  • It ensures that EU companies already established in the UK will not be discriminated against in public procurement procedures.
  • It secures resale rights for EU artists, which is not covered by international IPR conventions.
  • It ensures undistorted trade and competition for EU companies in the energy and raw materials sectors and for industry in general.
  • It contains a chapter on SMEs designed to promote the participation of SMEs in the agreement.
  • Both parties have committed themselves to ensuring a robust level playing field by maintaining high levels of protection in areas such as:
    • environmental protection;
    • the fight against climate change and carbon pricing;
    • social and labour rights;
    • tax transparency and state aid;
    • with effective domestic enforcement, a binding dispute settlement mechanism, and the possibility for both parties to take remedial measures.

For trade in goods between the EU and Northern Ireland, the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland included in the Withdrawal Agreement applies.


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Text of the agreement and overview


The EU and the UK are major partners when it comes to trade in services and investment. In 2021, the UK was the EU’s second largest trade partner for services, after the United States. The main services sectors traded between the EU and the UK were the so-called “other business services” (i.e. R&D services, legal services, architectural services etc.), financial services and telecommunication, computer and information services.

As of 1 January 2021, the UK no longer participates in the EU Single Market and therefore no longer benefits from the principles of free movement of persons, free provision of services and freedom of establishment. As a result, UK service suppliers, in order to offer services across the EU, may need to establish themselves in the EU to continue operating. They must comply with domestic rules, procedures and authorisations applicable to their activities in each Member State where they operate. The same applies to EU operators i.e. they have to comply with the domestic rules in the UK to be able to provide services in the UK.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) provides for a significant level of openness for trade in services and investment in many sectors including professional and business services (e.g. legal, auditing, architectural services), delivery and telecommunication services, computer-related and digital services, financial services, research and development services, most transport services and environmental services. In addition, it also applies to investment in sectors other than services such as manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy and other primary industries.

The actual level of market access will depend on the way the service is supplied: whether it is supplied on a cross-border basis from the home country of the supplier, e.g. over the internet (‘mode 1'); supplied to the consumer in the country of the supplier, for example a tourist travelling abroad and purchasing services (‘mode 2'); supplied via a locally-established enterprise owned by the foreign service supplier ('mode 3'), or through the temporary presence in the territory of another country by a service supplier who is a natural person (‘mode 4'). In practice, the actual ability to supply a particular service or invest in a certain sector also depends on specific reservations set out in the TCA, which may be imposed on EU service suppliers when supplying services in the UK in some sectors, and vice-versa.

Regarding the entry and temporary stay of natural persons for business purposes (as referred above to as ‘Mode 4'), the EU and the UK have agreed on a broad range of reciprocal commitments. The Parties cannot refuse such entry and stay on economic grounds (e.g. quotas, economic need tests) – although in some cases, there could be reservations against the commitments. Also, in certain cases a visa and/or residence or work permit may still be required.

The following categories of people are covered by the Agreement:

  • Business visitors for establishment purposes - e.g. a manager that comes into the UK to set up a subsidiary. These persons may come for 90 days in a 6-month period.
  • Intra-corporate transferees - e.g. a manager that company X in the EU sends to work in its subsidiary Y in the UK). These persons may come for 3 years (unless they are trainees, in which case the period of stay is limited to 1 year).
  • Short-term business visitors: these persons are allowed to come into the EU or UK to carry out certain (eleven) activities listed in paragraph 8 of Annex 21. They may come for 90 days in a 6-month period. However, Member States and the UK may take reservations in respect of some of those activities.
  • Contractual service suppliers: these persons may come into the EU (or into the UK) in order to implement a service contract that their company has with an EU (or with an UK) client for a maximum time of 12 months or the duration of the contract – whichever is shorter. They should have university degrees and professional experience linked to the service being provided. They can provide the services listed in paragraph 10 of Annex 22. However, Member States may take reservations in respect of some of those activities: see paragraph 12 of Annex 22 – that is, the conditions for providing a given service may be more restrictive or even impossible.
  • Independent professionals. Same as contractual service suppliers, but they are self-employed. The list of permitted services is included in paragraph 11 of Annex 22.

In addition, all domestic rules on professional qualifications apply. The TCA includes a framework whereby the European Union and the United Kingdom may later agree, on a case-by-case basis and for specific professions, on additional arrangements for the recognition of certain professional qualifications, which would become an annex to the Agreement itself. Such arrangements need to be adopted by the Partnership Council.

Practical information for EU services suppliers to provide services in the UK

Licence finder

To provide a service in the UK, a license needed for some business activities or other activities.

How to set up a business in the UK

The requirements for setting up a business in the UK will depend on the type of business you want to create, where you work and whether you take on people to help. Guide on how to set up a business in the UK

Recognition of professional qualifications

Non-UK professional qualification will need to be officially recognised by a UK regulatory body in order to work in a profession that is regulated in the UK. Information on regulatory bodies and regulated professions in the UK

Further information on regulated professions can be found on the UK Centre for Professional Qualifications website

Information on legal services and maritime transport services

The new trade assistant for services and investment, available on the the Access2Markets portal, offers information to EU companies that want to supply legal services and maritime transport services to the UK. It includes information on the requirements they need to fulfil as well as the contact details of the relevant regulatory authorities.

Entry and stay rules for qualified personnel

General information on visa requirements for different categories of applicants.

More specifically for qualified personnel:

  1. Business visitor rules
  2. Skilled Worker visa
  3. Intra-company visa
  4. T5 Temporary Worker-International Agreement Worker
  5. Representative of an Overseas Business

Public procurement

The EU-UK TCA incorporates the WTO agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) and goes beyond it. It means that all benefits relating to the bilateral rules and access to the UK market for the EU companies stemming from the GPA are also confirmed under the TCA and subject to bilateral dispute settlement.

The TCA goes beyond the GPA commitments and grants additional market access:

  • Covering procuring entities operating gas and heat networks and privately-owned procuring entities with monopoly rights in all utility sectors,
  • Covering some additional services, such as:
    • Hotel and restaurant services (CPC Prov. 641)
    • Food serving services (CPC Prov. 642)
    • Beverage serving services (CPC Prov. 643)
    • Telecommunication related services (CPC Prov. 754)
    • Real estate services on a fee or contract basis (CPC Prov. 8220)
    • Other business services (CPC Prov. 87901, 87903, 87905-87907)
    • Education services (CPC Prov. 92)

The TCA also extends the applicable set of rules and consequently facilitates market access thanks to:

  • enhanced use of electronic means,
  • single portal for all notices,
  • acceptance of self-declarations,

In the TCA, we also included non-discrimination for EU-owned companies established in the UK for all public tenders, including non-covered procurement like for example small value purchases (national treatment below the GPA threshold).


More information on access to the UK procurement market:

Public contracts worth over £10,000

Public Contracts Scotland

Public Contracts Wales

Northern Ireland Public Contracts: eSourcing NI - eTenders NI

Public Contracts worth over £118,000

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