The transition period ended on 31 December 2020. With the European market for public contracts worth an estimated €1.9 trillion per year, UK businesses that are currently involved or seeking to be involved in these opportunities should consider what changes to access this market mean for their financial planning, and learn where to find information to avoid missing opportunities.
The guidance on this page represents the information currently available from government. The CBI will update this page as new information is released.
Key challenges for business
Will the process for bidding for EU public contracts change?
Whilst the transition period has ended, the regulations governing the award of contracts have remained broadly unchanged for now.
UK public sector suppliers will, however, need to look for upcoming opportunities on the new UK Find a Tender service, rather than on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) as they do now.
Advertisements for domestic contracts remain the same.
Will UK companies still compete on a level playing field for European public contracts?
The UK now operates under the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) which gives UK businesses some access to EU procurement markets. From January 2021, the UK has been a party to the accord in its own right. UK businesses compete in GPA foreign procurement markets on a level playing field with domestic businesses, including the EU.
The UK-EU TCA also provides for additional access for markets beyond the GPA, including gas and heat distribution sector, certain monopolistic private utilities, services such as hospitality, telecoms, real estate, and education.
Will membership of the GPA give UK businesses the same access to European public contracts as they have now?
There are a few differences compared with the previous EU rules, as the GPA is more limited in its coverage. The GPA doesn’t cover, for example, below threshold contracts – often meaning contracts less than €200,000. In addition, it doesn’t cover defence contracts, some utility contracts, concessions and social and health services. A full list of the contracts covered can be found in Annex 5 of the GPA.
Have there been any significant changes to other procurement rules or regulations?
Whilst most procurement rules and regulations have remained consistent with previous EU directives, there have been some changes around state aid and subsidies primarily due to the change from EU to WTO regulations.
It is up to contracting authorities to bear these new obligations in mind but if your company has received subsidies in the past or is expecting to receive them in the future, it is worth ensuring awareness of the new subsidy controls and any potential impact.
The government has also confirmed that there will be large-scale changes to the rules and regulations around public procurement in a forthcoming Procurement Bill in Autumn 2021. The changes will be based in part on the Green Paper for Public Procurement.
Key questions for business to consider
The specific changes needed for your company to continue operating in the post-Brexit procurement landscape are unique to every organisation. However, there are some key questions you should answer to ensure the major issues are covered.
- Do you regularly bid for public contracts on TED?
- Have you communicated the changes to the advertisement of public contracts to your commercial teams?
- Will the UK’s membership of the GPA give your organisation sufficient market access?
- Are your commercial teams aware of the agreed changes?
Want the highlights? Read our Transforming Public Procurement consultation response.
Want to deep dive? Read our report with Browne Jacobson Markets for Good.
Other resources to help you plan
- Look at the no deal technical notice provided by the UK government for further details on what will change and how to prepare.
- Check Schedule 5 of the GPA to see whether the types of contracts you bid for will be covered by our independent membership of this agreement.
- Encourage your employees to familiarise themselves with the new ‘Find a Tender’ service to ensure they do not miss any upcoming opportunities.
- Read the UK Government guidance on bidding for overseas public procurement opportunities to understand what the new landscape looks like.
- Consider what the changes outlined in the Transforming Public Procurement green paper might mean for your business.