The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) came into effect on 1 January 2021. With the European market for public contracts worth an estimated €1.9 trillion per year, UK businesses that are involved in or seeking these opportunities should consider what changes to access to 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?
Under the UK-EU TCA, the regulations governing the award of contracts remain broadly unchanged for the time being.
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. In October 2020, the GPA parties of the WTO granted the UK the right to submit its instrument of accession to the Committee – essentially the final step required for the UK to join the GPA. This submission will ensure continuity in the UK’s participation in the GPA after 31 December 2020. 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 the 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.
There are also going to be changes to the domestic procurement rules in coming months, in line with the proposals in the government’s Green Paper for Public Procurement.