The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) came into effect on 1 January 2021. The EU has brought into force around 19,000 legislative acts which have directly set out much of the legal framework and regulations in the UK. Some of the most important are around competition, intellectual property, employment rules and environmental standards.
Key challenges for business
How will the key EU rules and regulations change for UK businesses?
Under the UK-EU TCA, businesses won’t face substantial changes to so-called level playing field regulations, including employment rules, competition policy and environmental standards. These laws have been copied from EU law into UK law – at Westminster and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – so these rules and procedures will remain the same as under EU membership.
However, businesses will need to consider potential changes in the long-term – as there may be a desire from politicians to reform some of these areas of legislation. Additionally, only UK public authorities can now adjudicate businesses following these rules. For example, legal action related to employment regulations in the UK will no longer be referable to European courts, only UK ones. Similarly, the likes of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), may be responsible for competition cases that would normally be handled by their EU counterparts. The CMA has published further details on what this means for business.
Are there any challenges that could cause difficulties for firms?
Some bodies, such as the CMA will take over additional responsibilities that had previously resided at EU level. For more information, you can read the CMA’s guidance.
The UK Internal Market Bill was passed at the end of 2020, which will add an element of legal framework for businesses trading internally within the UK, plus additional agreements around Common Frameworks.
What will happen to protections that the EU provides to UK products and designs?
Though it varies protection by protection, most designs and products protected under EU mechanisms will continue to be protected. For example, EU Trademarks will continue to be valid in the EU and the UK will create a comparable UK trademark. However, they will be fully independent trademarks which can be challenged, assigned, licensed or renewed separately from the original EU Trademark. The same is true for Registered Community Designs, and unregistered protection for designs will continue to exist through the UK unregistered design right.
The UK’s involvement in most international protection systems will also continue, meaning trademarks protected under the Madrid system will be maintained, as will many UK copyrighted works such as music, films, books and photographs protected through international treaties. The government has also stated that should the transition period end without a deal, it will not affect the UK’s involvement in the European Patent Convention and the Unified Patent Court.
However, many of these frameworks may not be entirely complete, and businesses should anticipate changes in the long-term. From 1 January 2021, UK attorneys will be unable to represent clients on new applications or new proceedings at the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). UK trademark owners will need to appoint an EEA attorney to represent them on new applications and proceedings before the EUIPO. Government guidance contains further details on IP usage from 2021.