If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal, UK firms and service providers will face additional steps or potentially even barriers to trade.
You will need to comply with both local and EU/EEA-wide rules in the following areas:
- cross-border trade
- establishing and structuring your business
- business travel and visa requirements
- recognition of UK professional qualifications
- data protection
Spain’s EU Exit contingency measures
The Spanish government has published detailed and specific guidance on EU Exit, including no-deal preparation.
On 1 March 2019, the Spanish government published detailed contingency plans for a no deal Brexit in Royal Decree 5/2019 (site in Spanish).
If you’re a UK business providing services in Spain, you’ll need to follow Spanish regulations about:
- acquiring authorisations or licences to provide a service
- complying with specific local business regulations
The Spanish e-government portal for service providers (site in Spanish) can help you to:
- find out what you need to know about providing services in Spain
- understand local regulations
- complete the relevant administrative procedures online
Consider appointing an English-speaking lawyer in Spain to help you comply with specific regulations.
There may be regulated sectors in Spain where EEA nationality requirements could prevent you from providing services.
To find out if these apply to you, contact the appropriate competent authority.
Contact the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (site in Spanish) if you have complaints or queries about anti-competitive practices.
There are also non-governmental organisations that provide advice to UK businesses operating in Spain, for example the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain.
These organisations are not associated with the UK government, and their views are not representative of any government policies.
Establishing and structuring your business
If you’re a UK service provider or business, you may face restrictions on your ability to own, manage or direct a company registered in an EU member state.
You should consider if you’re likely to face:
- additional requirements on the nationality or residency of senior managers or directors
- limits on the amount of equity that can be held by non-nationals
UK companies and limited liability partnerships that have their central administration or principal place of business in certain EU member states may no longer have their limited liability recognised.
Setting up a business
You can find out how to set up a business in Spain on these websites:
Sector specific information
For audit firms established and approved in EEA states under the Audit Directive, a majority of the ownership and management bodies of an audit firm must be ‘qualified persons’.
In the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, ‘qualified persons’ will continue to include EEA qualified auditors and EEA registered audit firms, but will not include UK qualified auditors or registered firms in future.
As a result, the ownership and management of some EEA audit firms may need to be restructured.
If you’re a UK legal professional who has investments in law firms in Spain, you should contact the General Council of the Spanish Bar (site in Spanish) for further information on the implications for your investment.
If you’re a UK citizen, service provider or business operating in the EU and in any doubt about your legal position, seek appropriate professional advice or contact the government of the country where you own, manage or direct a company for more information.
Business travel and visa requirements
When the UK leaves the EU, the rules for travelling in Europe will change
In the event of no deal, the European Commission has proposed granting UK citizens visa-free travel to the EU after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Under these conditions, if you’re a UK citizen you’ll be able to travel to Spain without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, for the purpose of:
- business meetings
- sports or cultural events
- short-term study
Should you need to undertake activities not listed above or intend to stay beyond 90 days in any 180-day period, you will need to check with host country authorities, as visa requirements can vary between EU/EEA member states.
If you’re engaging in a professional activity in Spain you’ll be subject to different requirements, depending on:
- your occupation and situation
- whether you are self-employed or an employee
- your business and the length of your stay
Certain professions may have to meet extra conditions and you may be required to show supporting documentation at the border.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation and Spanish Ministry of Work, Migration and Social Security (site in Spanish) websites have more information about:
- supporting documentation
- work and residence permits
- other conditions
- visas including intra-corporate transfers
Recognition of professional qualifications
The EU’s Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive provides a framework of rules on professional qualification recognition amongst the members of the EEA and Switzerland.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the MRPQ Directive will no longer apply to the UK.
If your qualification falls under the MRPQ Directive and it is already recognised as valid before exit day, it will remain valid after exit day.
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.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK nationals seeking recognition of their professional qualifications in an EU member state will be assessed under the rules of the host EU member state.
Legislation on the EU-wide recognition of professional qualifications
The European Commission has produced guidance on the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in the UK for professions that fall under the MRPQ Directive after EU Exit
The guidance states that:
- if your qualification is already recognised as valid, it will remain valid
- after the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals seeking recognition of their professional qualifications will be governed by the national policies and rules of that EU member state
- after the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals intending to provide temporary and occasional professional services in any EU member state will be governed by that state’s national policies and rules
Read the European Commission guidance for specific professional occupations.
Information on the EU-wide recognition of professional qualifications
The European Commission’s Regulated Professions Database (REGPROF) can help you identify:
- professions that are regulated in each EEA state and Switzerland
- contact details of the member states’ appropriate authority for that regulated profession
- points of single contact (PSCs) for each EU or EEA country, which give information on registering for professional recognition online
Information on the recognition of professional qualifications in Spain
If you are offering professional services in Spain, look at:
If you are a statutory auditor, you will need to establish whether any existing recognition you have in an EU member state will continue to be valid.
You can read:
For UK statutory auditors, the Instituto de Contabilidad y Auditoría de Cuentas Spain (site in Spanish) should be able to provide further information.
Recognition of legal qualifications
The European Commission’s guidance or ‘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 practise 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.
If you’re a UK-qualified lawyer working in Spain, either using a Spanish professional title or a UK professional title, you should contact the General Council of the Spanish Bar (site in Spanish) for advice.
UK businesses will need to continue to comply with data protection laws if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
To ensure continued compliance, you may need to make changes ahead of the UK leaving the EU if your business:
- operates across the EU and/or the EEA
- exchanges personal data with partners in the EU and/or the EEA
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides information on data protection and Brexit including the ‘6 steps to take’ checklist.
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 Spain) 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 Spain.
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 Spain), you and your EU/EEA-based partners need to think about what GDPR safeguards you can put in place.
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 29 March 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.
You can also read the European Data Protection Board’s guidance on lead supervisory authorities.
The Spanish data protection authority (site in Spanish) is the Spanish lead data protection authority.
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 29 March 2019, you may need to employ a European representative.