Why is this important?
A UK qualification – a degree or vocational award – is not automatically recognised throughout the EU, or in another country outside the UK. UK workers travelling to the EU – engineers, technicians, mangers and specialists in their fields, frequently rely upon their qualifications when providing services for their employer in the EU as evidence of their competence. Without UK qualifications being recognised, UK businesses may find that EU customers will be less likely to trade with them, or that local rules in the EU member state where their workers travel to prevent them from working.
What’s the issue?
For many years, EU law has allowed professionals to have their qualifications recognised in a member state of the EU other than that where they obtained their qualifications. There are a number of different ways in which qualifications can be mutually recognised under EU law – one applies to professions that are specifically regulated, such as doctors and lawyers and the other allow individual types of qualifications to be recognised. The EU system for the regulation of professional sectors is easier to navigate as it defines the professionals and their roles, whereas the system that allows for individual qualifications to be recognised is more complex as it relies on a network of EU national authorities liaising with one another over each individual qualification. These systems provided a framework for UK qualifications to be recognised throughout the EU, allowing UK workers to work on the strength of them.
What does this mean for manufacturers?
In general there are no roles that fall within the regulated professionals element of the MRPQ system – instead manufacturers need to consider the individual qualifications that each person holds and whether they have gained a recognition status.
The withdrawal of the UK from the EU therefore means that the UK will no longer be able to participate in the pan-EU system of qualification recognition. Decisions on the recognition of professional qualifications made before the withdrawal date will remain valid, but this then requires individuals to check whether the qualification that they hold has been the subject of a recognition decision under EU law. If it has not, then the qualification will no longer be automatically recognised in the EU. The impact of this is likely to be significant.
Will the UK be able to join the EU system of qualification recognition in the future?
The part of EU law that provides the basis for MRPQs is freedom and movement (FoM), and in particular the freedom to provide services. FoM did not apply to UK nationals after 31st December 2020, and the UK has left the single market for services. There is therefore very little opportunity for the UK to replicate the current EU system in the future. The withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have a number of other impacts in the area that are significant –
- Even if a UK national obtains a qualification in an EU member state, this does not guarantee that the qualification will be recognised. The recognition of the qualification will still be the subject of a decision of the member state where the UK national is working.
- Following on from the above, the UK national will need to ensure that their qualification is recognised in each member state that they work in and will not be able to rely on the decision of one member state of the EU to act as a gateway to all member states.
- The ability to provide temporary or occasion services using mutually recognised qualifications has fallen away – this applies even if a UK national resides in the EU.
What should UK employers do?
They need to check which qualifications their UK workers hold and whether they were recognised until the EU system that applied to the UK before the end of 2020. If not, then they will need to contact the individual member state where they want the worker to travel to and check whether the UK qualification has been recognised.
How we can help
Our international mobility and trade consultants can advise you, reviewing your existing arrangements, helping you make changes, and how you can operate within the new UK/EU TCA and UK immigration rules. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org