Ireland: providing services after EU Exit

Guidance for UK businesses about Irish rules and regulations on service provision if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

General information

The UK government is clear that in a no deal scenario we must respect our unique relationship with Ireland, with whom we share a land border and who are co-signatories of the Belfast Agreement.

The UK government has consistently placed upholding the agreement and its successors at the heart of our approach. It enshrines the consent principle on which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status rests.

We recognise the basis it has provided for the deep economic and social cooperation on the island of Ireland. This includes north-south cooperation between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which we’re committed to protecting in line with the letter and spirit of strand two of the agreement.

In addition, both the UK government and the Government of Ireland have committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA) in all scenarios.

Rights to work, study and access social security and public services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals in the other’s state.

The Government of Ireland is making preparations in a number of areas for a no deal scenario and have indicated they would also need to discuss arrangements with the European Commission (EC) and EU member states. The UK would stand ready in this scenario to engage constructively to meet our commitments and act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

What do UK businesses and professionals need to know?

In a no deal scenario, the UK will move from operating under a single European Economic Area (EEA) umbrella for services regulation to navigating different sets of member state rules.

UK service providers and businesses exporting their services should be aware that they will need to comply with local rules in the following areas:

  • cross border trade in services
  • investment
  • qualification recognition
  • mobility
  • data

It is suggested that businesses and professionals take steps to understand the regulation in these areas for each member state that they are operating in. The details provided below signpost where to find this information when operating abroad.

As indicated above, the UK and Irish governments are committed to maintaining the CTA and protecting the associated reciprocal rights in all scenarios. As such, the arrangements described below are without prejudice to the rights available to individuals under the CTA.

Find out more about rights under the CTA

The government of Ireland have published details of its preparation work if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, this includes information on the CTA. Irish and British citizens may want to review this document.

Regulation of cross border trade in services

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the EU and UK will trade on WTO terms. The default position in this case is that UK service providers will be required to comply with GATS rules on services provision.

Businesses and professionals should check local requirements, including nationality requirements, and obtain any necessary authorisations or licenses to continue to operate in Ireland.

Information on these requirements and how to complete relevant administrative procedures online can be found on the Irish e-Government portal.

The Law Society of Ireland has published information for UK legal professionals.

There are also non-governmental organisations which can provide advice to UK businesses operating, or seeking to operate, in Ireland such as the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce.

Here, UK service providers can find networking opportunities and advice. These organisations are not associated with the UK government, and their views are not representative of any government policies.


If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK service providers and businesses will no longer benefit from EU Treaty Freedoms and will be subject to the national laws of each EEA state. This will mean that service providers and businesses will need to consider if they face restrictions on their ability to own, manage or direct a company registered in an EEA state.

Details on how your service provider or business might be affected if the UK leaves the EU without a deal can be found in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s technical notice Structuring your business if there’s no Brexit deal.

If in any doubt about your legal position, UK citizens, service providers and businesses operating in Ireland should seek appropriate professional advice.

Qualification recognition

General regulated professions – before exit day

The EU’s Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive provides a reciprocal framework of rules which enables EEA and Swiss nationals to have their professional qualifications recognised in a state other than the one in which the qualification was obtained.

The MRPQ Directive applies in general to regulated professions unless otherwise stated in the MRPQ Directive. A non-exhaustive list of professions covered by the MRPQ Directive is available in the European Commission’s database of regulated professions.

For some professions there are additional sectoral frameworks, for example, audit and legal services. If your route to recognition derives from the Audit Directive or the Lawyers Establishment Directive, please see the specific advice below.

General regulated professions – after exit day

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, after exit day the MRPQ Directive will no longer apply to the UK and there will be no system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the UK and the EU27 member states.

The European Commission has published two guidance documents that outline how the EU27 member states should consider the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in the UK for profession which fall under the MRPQ Directive.

These documents are:

UK nationals should note that decisions on the recognition of UK professional qualifications made by another EU27 member state before exit day will not be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Furthermore, within the framework of the CTA arrangements, the Irish government has committed to working to ensure the provisions of arrangements to recognise professional qualifications obtained in the UK.

The European Commission has also published preparedness notices for specific professional occupations. For example, this includes train drivers, aviation personnel, seafarers, boat masters on inland waterways, and persons engaged in road transport.

Read the full set of preparedness notices. Individuals may wish to review the list to check for any sector specific rules.

After exit day – specific information in relation to statutory auditors

The European Commission’s preparedness notice in relation to the MRPQ Directive is not applicable to statutory auditors who obtained their qualification in the UK. The European Commission has published a separate specific preparedness notice for how statutory auditors who obtained their qualification in the UK will be treated by EU27 member states after exit day.

The UK government has also set out the effects for statutory auditors in its technical notice on audit and accounting.

UK statutory auditors can contact their existing UK recognised supervisory body who will be able to provide further information.

After exit day – specific information in relation to lawyers

The European Commission’s preparedness notice in relation to the MRPQ Directive outlines that lawyers who have transferred into an EU member state profession through the provisions set out in the MRPQ Directive by exit day will continue to have their qualification recognised and will be able to continue to practice should the UK leave the EU without a deal. This preparedness notice does not deal with the recognition of qualifications under the Lawyers Establishment Directive.

The European Commission’s Brexit preparedness seminar on professional qualifications, intellectual property, civil justice, company law, consumer protection and personal data contains information also relevant to lawyers.

UK lawyers can contact their existing UK regulator which will be able to provide further information.

Additional online resources you may wish to consider

There are a number of online resources that individuals who obtained their qualifications in the UK may want to view.

The European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database (REGPROF) can be used to assess host member state rules.

This database enables users to:

  • search for and identify which professions are regulated in each EEA member state and Switzerland, as per the MRPQ Directive
  • view the contact details of the EEA member states’ and Switzerland’s appropriate competent authority for that particular regulated profession.

Points of single contact and NARIC

Each EEA member state operates a point of single contact (PSC) that provides further useful information for service providers and businesses.

Find the PSC of each EEA member state

Further information on recognition issues can be found via the relevant national NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre). Each NARIC member is responsible for providing information, advice and opinion on academic, vocation and professional qualifications and skills from each NARIC member.

Ireland PSC and NARIC

Specific points of information for Ireland are:

For UK legal professionals:


Common Travel Area

The UK and Irish governments have committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA) after EU Exit in all scenarios. CTA arrangements mean full protection and maintenance of the status quo for all journeys for individuals between the UK and Ireland – including the 110 million annual crossings of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Rights to work, study and access social security and public services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals in the other’s state.

Find out more about the CTA and the rights of British and Irish citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

The CTA does not extend to individuals who are a British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen, British national (overseas) or other type of British citizen or national, and these may be subject to further restrictions.

Find out more about travelling to Ireland.

You can find out more on the Irish Department for Justice and Equality website.

Find out more about living in Ireland.

Data protection

UK businesses will need to ensure they continue to comply with data protection laws if the UK leaves the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal.

For UK businesses that operate across the EU/EEA or exchange personal data with partners in the EU/EEA, there may be changes that need to be made ahead of the UK leaving the EU to ensure continued compliance.

All UK organisations who do the following will need to make themselves aware of the potential impact of these changes on their business:

  • process personal data of EU/EEA residents
  • send personal data to Ireland
  • receive personal data from Ireland

Data protection online resources

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has published a short ‘6 step’ document as well as more detailed guidance.

These resources offer you information on immediate steps your business can take to mitigate potential impacts and ensure continued compliance with the data protection law, as well as describing in more detail what changes you may need to make.

You can also find relevant information on the website of the Irish Data Protection Authority.

We recommend that you read the ICO guidance to understand the steps you will need to take to mitigate against potential impacts.

International data transfers

The UK government is legislating to provide that, on the UK’s exit from the EU, transfers of personal data from the UK to the EU/EEA (for example Ireland) will be permitted.

No additional steps need to be taken at this point if you plan to only transfer personal data from the UK to the Republic of Ireland. You should review your privacy information and your internal documentation to identify any details that will need updating when the UK leaves the EU. Find out more on documentation requirements in the ICO’s six step guidance.

If you receive personal data transfers in the UK from the EU/EEA (for example Ireland), you and your EU/EEA-based partners need to think about what GDPR safeguards you can put in place.

Read ICO guidance on international data transfers.

Use the ICO tool to identify and assess your options for complying with EU law on personal data transfers from the EU and EEA to the UK after 12 April 2019.

Your lead data protection authority

If you are a UK business with its headquarters in the UK but with operations in the EU and processing personal data across EU/EEA borders, you might need to deal with a lead supervisory authority in the EU.

Find out more about lead data protection authorities on the ICO website.

You can also read the European Data Protection Board’s guidance on lead supervisory authorities.

The Irish Data Protection Authority is the Irish lead data protection authority.

EU representatives

If you’re a UK business that offers goods or services in the EEA, or monitors the behaviour of EEA subjects, but will not have an established presence in an EU or EEA state after 12 April 2019, you may need to employ a European representative.

Find out more about European representatives on the ICO website

Published 19 March 2019

Share this article