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Brexit Readiness Portal - updated January 2021

Overview

This briefing was updated on 6 January 2021 to reflect the provisions of the UK-EU trade deal.

Now that the Brexit transition period has ended and a UK-EU trade deal has been agreed, businesses need to be prepared for significant changes. The guidance on this site explains what the key changes are and what businesses need to do in order to adapt. New material is added on a regular basis, so please check in for further updates. For more detailed advice, do get in touch with any of the authors, or your usual contact at the firm.

Key issues/overview

The Brexit trade deal

For guidance on the UK-EU trade deal, see:

Key issues to consider

These materials set out the key issues you need to consider in relation to services, goods, workforce/immigration, business travel, tax, data and contracts – they are a good starting point if you are taking another look at Brexit after focussing on COVID-19 or other issues:

For more background on the trade deal and international trade generally, see:

Services

Our briefings cover how UK service providers will be treated by the EU from 2021 and other key issues including business travel and data. We also explain what you need to consider even if you have no customers in the EU.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal:  Our initial assessment is that, for service providers, the agreement offers relatively limited access, broadly in line with the EU-Canada free trade deal (which we took into account in our commentary from 2020).  We are in the process of updating our guidance to reflect the deal but the key issues remain as highlighted in our briefings below.

Goods

The end of the transition period means major changes for any business which supplies goods to customers in the EU and/or relies on goods supplied from the EU. The vast majority of these changes are unaffected by the UK-EU trade deal.  Disruption to supply chains is widely expected from 1 January 2021. What you need to do to prepare depends on where you are in the supply chain:

Our detailed Q&A on Brexit and goods trade also includes guidance on strategies to mitigate the risk of disruption, key contractual issues (including Incoterms) and changes to the VAT position.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal:  The main impact of the agreement is to provide for zero tariffs on goods originating in the UK or the EU, as the case may be.  We are in the process of amending the above guidance to reflect the deal but we do not expect that our commentary on most of the issues covered will need to be substantially amended (the main exception to this is likely to be rules of origin).

Stockpiling

With disruption to supply chains widely expected in 2021 as businesses adapt to major changes in border processes and new trading conditions with the EU, stockpiling is an obvious mitigation strategy – and may need to be considered again later in 2021 (e.g. in the run-up to July, when the UK is scheduled to introduce full controls on imports). Our briefings look at how you can maximise the storage potential of your existing premises to assist with stockpiling and how can contracts help.

Product regulation and conformity

Brexit will mean changes in how UK businesses deal with product compliance.  Our briefing looks at product conformity marking after 1 January 2021:

Exports of controlled products to the EU

"Controlled products" generally refers to items with potential military/security applications (and includes certain types of software and many items commonly used for civilian purposes). Previously, many of these items could be exported to the EU largely free of controls, but from 1 January 2021, new requirements may apply, including the need for export licences.

People

Business travel to the EU from 2021

From 2021, travel to the EU by UK citizens for business purposes without a visa or work permit will only be possible for a relatively limited range of activities – our briefings explain what you need to do to adapt to these changes.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: Our initial assessment is that the agreement is not particularly generous in relation to business travel to the EU; it is broadly similar to the EU-Canada free trade deal (which we took into account in our commentary from 2020). We are in the process of updating our guidance to reflect the UK-EU trade deal, but the key issues remain as highlighted in our briefings below.

Immigration

The UK's immigration regime is changing in the light of Brexit – find out what employers should be doing to adapt to the new points-based regime. Note in particular that the UK-EU trade deal has no material impact on these changes, which will make it significantly more difficult to recruit EEA nationals than under previous EU free movement rules.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal:  The UK-EU trade deal is unlikely to have a significant impact on the UK's immigration regime and the key issues remain as highlighted in our briefings below.

Social security: issues for employers

Changes will be made to cross-border social security rules from 2021.  These will potentially affect UK employers with employees working in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.  

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal:  We are in the process of updating our guidance to reflect the social security provisions of the UK-EU trade deal.  Our initial assessment is that these provisions are welcome as they should help to reduce the risk of double charges arising.  However, there are still a number of issues that employers need to watch out for, some of which are highlighted in our commentary from 2020.

Pensions

Pension schemes may be affected by Brexit in a variety of ways, which could require changes to the way the scheme is administered.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The UK-EU trade deal generally makes little or no difference to the issues we outlined in our pensions checklist.  However, regarding the transfer of personal data to and from the EU, see the section on Data.

Data

From 2021, exchanging personal data between the UK and the EEA will become more complicated. Our briefings explain what's changing and what businesses need to do in order to adapt.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The agreement effectively provides for a "grace period", allowing transfers of personal data from the EU to the UK to an continue without further action on the part of EU based controllers or their UK based counterparts for at least 4 months, with a possible extension by a further 2 months (i.e. until the end of June 2021). This is designed to give the European Commission sufficient time to reach a decision on whether the UK regulatory framework is "adequate". If it declines to do so, then UK-based businesses and their EU counterparts will need to make changes to their current arrangements for the transfer of personal data (as explained in the first briefing below). The grace period is conditional on the UK not changing its data protection legislation without the EU's consent. We are in the process of updating our guidance to reflect the UK-EU trade deal, but the key issues remain as highlighted in our briefings below.

Contracts

Our briefings discuss the impact of Brexit on key issues ranging from pricing, compliance obligations, and Incoterms through to relief events, change control/variation and termination. We also discuss how contracts can help you mitigate key Brexit risks such as goods shortages and supply chain disruption, which may occur at various points during 2021 (i.e. not just in the first quarter).

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The deal has no direct impact on contractual arrangements. The key issues remain as set out in our briefings below.

Intellectual property

Brexit will mean changes for businesses with pan-European intellectual property rights, i.e. EU trade mark registrations, registered Community design rights, unregistered Community design rights, or database rights. It will also affect protected geographical indications and protected designations of origin.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: Although the agreement contains a reasonably substantial section on intellectual property rights, the main effect of these provisions is to commit the UK and the EU to maintaining a high level of protection for businesses in this area. The key practical implications of Brexit for IP remain as set out in our briefing below.

Jurisdiction and disputes

Brexit will mean changes to the way that English judgments are enforced in the EU. Find out what this means for your business.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The deal has no direct impact on the position as regards jurisdiction and disputes following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020. The key issues remain as set out in our briefings below.

Pensions, finance and insolvency

Pensions

Pension schemes may be affected by Brexit in a variety of ways, which could require changes to the way the scheme is administered. Some financial and insolvency issues can also affect pension schemes (see also under "Finance and Insolvency" below).

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The UK-EU trade deal generally makes little or no difference to the issues we outlined in our pensions checklist. However, regarding the transfer of personal data to and from the EU, see the section on Data.

Finance and insolvency

As regards finance, Brexit will mean the end of bank passporting arrangements from the UK, which could impact on some aspects of cross-border lending, for instance the ability of some entities to perform lending or security agency functions in some jurisdictions. Although we anticipate that the loan markets will continue to favour English governing law, documentation changes will be required to reflect the onshoring of EU law in English law.

As regards insolvency, Brexit will also remove rules that require UK insolvency proceedings to be respected elsewhere in the EU, increasing the risk of competing insolvency proceedings between the UK and the EU. In addition, certain types of UK court judgments may become less readily enforceable in the EU.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The deal will generally make little difference to the issues outlined in our briefing below, although some banks and other financial institutions may wish to consider the impact of the deal and the expected Memorandum of Understanding on financial services. Regarding the transfer of personal data to and from the EU, see the section on Data.   

Merger control, competition law, state aid and public procurement

Brexit will mean significant changes to merger control, competition law, state aid and public procurement. Although there is relatively little that you can do to actively prepare for these changes, the implications for some business will be significant and it is important to be aware of the potential impact.

Impact of the UK-EU trade deal: The deal will make little difference in practice to merger control or competition law and the key issues remain as highlighted in our briefings below. As regards both state aid and public procurement, the deal will impose some constraints on the UK's freedom to design its own post-Brexit regimes in these areas. As regards public procurement, the deal enhances access for UK and EU firms to each other's procurement markets, but these improvements are relatively modest.  We will be amending our materials to reflect these points, but the key issues remain as set out in the briefings below.

Additional information

Click here for text of the UK-EU trade deal and related documents.

For more information to assist with adapting to changes following the end of the Brexit transition period, see:

The following UK Government web pages may also be helpful:

Key contacts

Read Jonathan Rush 's Profile
Read Rachel Woodburn's Profile
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