The future UK-EU relationship on professional and business services Contents

Chapter 5: Business mobility

The importance of business mobility

84.Witnesses impressed upon us how integral temporary mobility (GATS ‘mode four’) is to working practices and competitiveness across the UK’s professional and business services industries.

85.The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) told us that “teams have to form and reform quickly to adapt to clients’ changing needs”, arguing that the “ability to pull together teams of professionals from different disciplines to meet those needs quickly and effectively” was a key factor behind the UK public relations industry’s global success.110

86.Paul Bainsfair described a similar situation for the advertising industry: “You need to move very quickly and have people on the ground in different markets very quickly to answer different briefs.”111 Pact, a trade body for the filming and digital media production sectors, also noted that “independent producers often need quick access to countries for last minute filming, meetings, or attending international markets”.112

87.Neil Ross, Policy Manager, techUK, focused on the engineering sector: “Often you get a very short space of notice in which to go and do immediate repairs. That would require an engineer hearing of a problem and being able to fly out the next day.”113 TheCityUK stated that, like accountants and consultants, “Lawyers … need to be able to travel to other jurisdictions in order to advise clients, often at very short notice.”114

88.The Minister recognised the importance of business mobility for service suppliers, “with EU and UK professionals, such as lawyers and engineers, readily crossing the border for meetings or training, among other activities”. The Government was seeking to “build on precedent” in this area, for example by “taking reciprocal commitments on short-term business visitors for the first time”. He emphasised the mutual benefits of a “good deal” on entry and temporary stay of professionals.115

89.Professional and business services sectors rely on the ease of business travel between the UK and EU, and firms’ ability to redeploy staff flexibly to their offices across Europe. Any significant barriers to UK-EU business mobility, therefore, risk a loss of competitiveness and innovation. We urge the Government to ensure that temporary mobility is covered by an agreement with the EU, and that arrangements in this area are as ambitious and comprehensive as possible.

Business mobility under a UK-EU agreement

90.Based on the evidence we received, positive arrangements on business mobility will depend on a number of factors, which we consider in the following paragraphs.

Categories of professionals

91.The PBSC and several other witnesses argued that any future UK-EU deal should contain a “broad definition” of business visitors,116 with the Law Society of England and Wales highlighting the need for “clear provisions and commitments” on the different categories of “natural persons” who may spend periods of time in the other Party’s territory for business purposes.117

92.The draft legal texts published by the two sides identify, and provide definitions for, several categories of professionals,118 notably:

In addition, both draft legal texts propose arrangements for ‘short-term business visitors’, although neither defines the term.

93.Unlike the Commission, the Government also proposes to include a definition of ‘investor’: “an executive of an enterprise headquartered in a Party who … will be responsible for the entire or a substantial part of the enterprise’s operations in the other Party”. The PBSC described this as a “welcome addition” to the Government’s offering on business mobility.119

94.Our witnesses’ general plea was that commitments on temporary stays for business purposes should be as liberal as possible. The Law Society of England and Wales highlighted, in particular, the need to remove any “requirement for the economic needs test” for mobility on a temporary basis.120 We note that both the Government’s and EU’s draft legal texts contain provisions to that effect, alongside national treatment arrangements that would prevent either Party from discriminating against business visitors and secondees. Member States, however, may request reservations to any business mobility commitments agreed at UK-EU level. TheCityUK observed that CETA allows EU countries “to impose reservations on short term business visitors”,121 and Audley Sheppard QC, Chair, London Court of International Arbitration, told us that Hungary had availed itself of this option.122

Permitted activities

95.Sally Jones highlighted arrangements on short-term business visitors as an area where professional and business service providers “desperately need” clarity before they “can truly understand how generous or otherwise the mobility offers are from both sides”.123 A key part of those arrangements would be a list of activities that UK short-term business visitors would be allowed to undertake while in the EU (and vice versa), but this had “been left blank” in the UK proposal.124 The PBSC agreed, adding that the EU’s proposed “list of covered activities” was also unknown, warning that precedent suggested that it could be “extremely limited”. It concluded that the Government “should be seeking to negotiate as ambitious provisions as possible with regards to short term business visitors, including a wider scope of covered activities”.125

96.The Minister provided little about the UK-EU negotiations on the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors, but noted that the Government was seeking to “build on best precedent” in this area.126

Visa and administrative requirements

97.Witnesses raised concerns about the potential administrative burden caused by any future visa requirements. REC noted that the “time delay in applying for a visa to the EU would limit members’ ability to travel throughout the EU at short notice”.127 The PBSC wanted short-term professional and business travel to be “visa-free” or subject to “very little administrative burden”.128

98.Both the UK and EU texts propose that short-term business visitors from one Party should be able to enter the other Party’s territory “without the requirement of a work permit, economic needs test or other prior approval procedures of similar intent”.129

99.The Government stated that any mode four commitments entered into as part of a UK-EU trade agreement would “be consistent with the UK’s future points-based immigration system”.130 The Minister did not directly confirm whether the UK was seeking visa-free travel for short-term business visitors, but said that the Government was “willing to take comprehensive commitments on procedural facilitations and transparency measures relating to business mobility”. He cited as examples proposals that “all applications for entry and temporary stay should be processed within 90 days”, and that both Parties should ensure “there is a single portal for accessing all application forms, guidance documents and related information”.131 We note that this would not alleviate the concerns raised by witnesses, which have described above (see paragraph 97).

Maximum lengths of stay

100.Both published negotiating positions set caps on the amount of time that short-term business visitors and independent professionals from either Party may spend in the other Party’s territory. While the Government’s draft legal text seeks a maximum permittable stay of 90 days in any six-month period for short-term business visitors (as in CETA), the EU’s draft only offers a maximum of 90 days in any 12-month period. As for independent professionals, the EU’s text proposes “a cumulative period of up to 12 months, or for the duration of the contract, whichever is less”. The Government proposes a more liberal “12 months in any 24 month period or for the duration of the contract, whichever is less”, with an option for either Party to extend this length of stay up to 24 months.

101.The Institution of Mechanical Engineers felt that the EU’s proposals on maximum stays for short-term business visitors would “likely be restrictive on longer term … projects”.132 The Federation of Small Businesses agreed that “at least up to 90 days in any six-month period” would be required,133 while Universities UK argued that even that that would be “insufficient” for the requirements of the education sector.134 On the other hand, Nick Owen described the Government’s proposals as “quite ambitious”,135 with Simon Hart, Partner, International, RSM UK, also noting that “90 days in a six-month period would be more than adequate” for his firm’s needs.136

102.In oral evidence, the Minister confirmed that the maximum permissible length of stay for short-term business visitors remained a point of difference between the UK and EU.137

Intra-corporate transferees

103.The maximum length of stays for intra-corporate transferees (other than graduate trainees) is another area of difference. Nick Owen and others noted that the UK draft legal text speaks of a maximum of five years. The Commission’s proposal is three years,138which, Sam Lowe described as “the normal EU proposal”.139 We received no evidence, however, to suggest that the EU’s proposed cap would be problematic for UK professional and business service providers.

104.The Government has also proposed a definition of ‘key personnel’, including intra-corporate transferees, investors and business visitors for establishment purposes. Universities UK noted that, as currently defined, this category could exclude early career academics. It argued that, to address this issue, “discretion should be permitted in the determination of seniority and minimum time of employment”.140

Contractual service suppliers

105.Universities UK argued that the maximum permissible stay for contractual service suppliers proposed in both texts would be “insufficient” for the UK’s higher education sector, suggesting that it should be increased to 36 months, which is “the time necessary to teach an undergraduate degree to a full cohort”. In addition, Universities UK proposed that the ability for intra-corporate transferees to be accompanied by their partners and dependent children “should be adopted and expanded to contractual service suppliers”.141

106.We strongly support the Government’s efforts to secure a maximum length of stay of 90 days in any six-month period for short-term business visitors, compared to the 90 days in 12 months offered by the EU.

107.The efficacy of any UK-EU arrangements on short-term business visitors will ultimately depend on the type of activities that these visitors will be allowed to carry out when visiting their clients. The negotiating parties have not yet disclosed their proposals in this area. We urge the Government to press for minimal restrictions, particularly the inclusion of paid work in any list of permitted activities under a UK-EU agreement. As in a number of other areas, we are concerned about the potential for national reservations to the agreement that could create additional barriers to the delivery of services, such as economic needs tests for mobility on a temporary basis.

108.While we recognise that free movement between the UK and EU will end, and that the UK will pursue its own independent immigration policy, it is in the UK’s economic interest to agree comprehensive business travel facilitations with the EU as part of a future relationship agreement. Several witnesses advocated visa-free travel for short-term business travel, covering short-term business visitors and independent professionals. Any new administrative arrangements should ensure that these sectors can maintain their agility. We ask the Government to clarify whether this is part of its offering to the EU and, if it is not, to explain its reasoning.

Access to talent

109.Although the UK’s future immigration system was outside the scope of our inquiry, several witnesses highlighted access to talent after the transition period as a key concern for the UK’s professional and business services sectors. Sam Lowe felt that these industries owe much of their success to the ability to attract “the best and brightest” from Europe and further afield. He believed that relying on professionals who “are able to operate in [other] countries because they know the language and the local context” had been a key driver behind UK exports of professional and business services.142

110.TheCityUK expressed concern that “existing skills shortages” could be “exacerbated following the end of freedom of movement”, and called for the Government’s policies on “access to skills and talent, including the UK’s points-based immigration system”, to reflect the “future and current skills needs” of the UK’s professional services sectors.143 Similar views were expressed by Neil Ross, who drew attention to the UK’s “severe digital skills gap” and described the uncertainty around the UK’s future immigration system as “one of the biggest issues for the technology sector as a whole”, particularly SMEs.144 Andrew Forth also feared a situation where specialised architects, whose numbers are already “quite low” worldwide, could not “easily come and work in the UK”. The PBSC told us that it had offered the Government a series of “ambitious recommendations” on how the UK’s future immigration system could meet the industry’s requirements, including on “the remodelling of the temporary short-term scheme”.145

111.Pact sought clarity on the future of the Temporary Worker—Creative and Sporting visa (Tier 5), and asked that this route “remain as flexible as possible”. It also suggested a “creative industries exemption … for workers being brought in under co-production treaties such as the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production”.146

112.Given the importance of the creative industries, the EU Services Sub-Committee wrote to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 3 August 2020 to seek further information on the Government’s progress in this area.147 We were disappointed with the Government’s response, which lacked detail on some key issues, such as the application of ‘European works’ status to UK creative products. The Minister also confirmed that the Government was not pursuing a ‘touring visa’ for the creative industries. We are deeply concerned about the Government’s inattention to these areas, and we therefore replied to the Minister on 25 September 2020, reiterating our concerns.148

113.Access to talent from the EU is and will remain important to the UK’s professional and business service sectors. We encourage the Government to work with businesses, including through the Professional and Business Services Council, to understand how the UK’s future immigration system can best support their needs.

110 Written evidence from the CIPR (PBS0035)

112 Written evidence from Pact (PBS0044)

114 Written evidence from TheCityUK (PBS0023)

116 See for example written evidence from the PBSC (PBS0007), the Advertising Association (PBS0016), REC (PBS0022) and TheCityUK (PBS0023).

117 Written evidence from PBSC (PBS0007) and Law Society of England and Wales (PBS0019)

118 Written evidence from PBSC (PBS0007)

119 Ibid.

120 Written evidence from the Law Society of England and Wales (PBS0019)

121 Written evidence from TheCityUK (PBS0023)

125 Written evidence from the PBSC (PBS0007)

127 Written evidence from the REC (PBS0022)

128 Written evidence from the PBSC (PBS0007)

129 HM Government, Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Draft working text for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, 18 March 2020, Chapter 11, Article 11.11: [accessed 28 September 2020] European Commission, Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Draft text of the Agreement on the New Partnership with the United Kingdom, Article SERVIN 4.3 (18 March 2020): [accessed 28 September 2020]

130 Written evidence from BEIS (PBS0024)

132 Written evidence from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (PBS0006)

133 Written evidence from the Federation of Small Businesses (PBS0051)

134 Written evidence from Universities UK (PBS0020)

140 Written evidence from Universities UK (PBS0020)

141 Written evidence from Universities UK (PBS0020)

143 Written evidence from TheCityUK (PBS0023)

145 Written evidence from PBSC (PBS0007)

146 Written evidence from PACT (PBS0044)

147 Letter from Baroness Donaghy, Chair, EU Services Sub-Committee, to Rt Hon. Olive Dowden CBE MP, 3 August 2020: [accessed 28 September 2020]

148 Letter from Baroness Donaghy, Chair, EU Services Sub-Committee, to Rt Hon. Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 25 September 2020: [accessed 29 September 2020]

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