Measures to adapt the UK to the situation of a third country following the end of the transitional period for Brexit

On 30 December last, following the agreement of the Council of Ministers, Royal Decree-Law 38/2020 of 29 December was published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) number 340, adopting measures to adapt the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the situation of a third country following the end of the transitional period provided for in the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community of 31 January 2020 (access to BOE regulations, here)

Chapter II of this RD-Law establishes the rules applicable to “Professional and Labour Relations” and is divided into 5 sections:

  • Section 1: “Professions and public service”, regulates access to and exercise of professions, and the rules applicable to access to and maintenance of the status of public employees of United Kingdom nationals in the service of Spanish public administrations.
  • Section 2: “Industrial relations” contains two articles, one on the transitional arrangements applicable to workers temporarily posted in the framework of the provision of services and the other on European Works Councils in Community-scale undertakings or Community-scale groups of undertakings.
  • Section 3: on the exercise of research and innovation activities in a single article, Article 8, which allows United Kingdom nationals, who on 31 December 2020 are exercising these activities in Spain, to continue to do so on the same terms as those under which they are recognized, subject to the application of the Spanish legislation in force, provided that reciprocal treatment is recognized for Spanish nationals by the competent United Kingdom authorities.
  • Section 4: “Social Security”, contains, in a single article, Article 9, the rules for determining the applicable legislation on the same terms as those established prior to the date of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. This will allow Spain to continue to apply these same rules to those persons who are subject to UK social security legislation, provided that the United Kingdom acts reciprocally in respect of those persons who are subject to security legislation Spanish social security system.
  • In Section 5, Article 10 regulates measures to enable United Kingdom nationals to access unemployment benefits for periods of contribution up to 31 December 2020 (end of the transitional period), in any Member State of the European Union including periods of contribution in the United Kingdom, provided that the last contributions were made in Spain and that the right of legal residence in Spain is maintained.

By way of summary, among the measures included in this RD-Law, we highlight the following:

  • Companies established in Spain which on 1 January 2021 had workers temporarily posted to the United Kingdom or Gibraltar must continue to apply the legislation of that country, which transposes Directive 96/71/EC of 16 December, during the period of posting and provided that reciprocal treatment is recognized.
  • Similarly, companies established in the United Kingdom or Gibraltar with workers posted to Spain before 31 December 2020 may remain in Spain from 1 January and continue to provide their services until 31 December. After that, in order to continue the activity, it will be necessary to apply for a residence and work permit.
  • European Union citizens who commute to Gibraltar for work will be eligible for unemployment benefits until 31 December 2022
  • Workers who were posted to provide services will not have to apply for residence and work permits from 1 January 2021 if the planned duration of the posting is not extended
  • Workers posted to Spain as from 1 January 2021 must obtain the visas and/or residence and work permits provided for in Spanish immigration law, without prejudice to the agreements and commitments that may be assumed in a possible agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
  • Access to unemployment benefit or cessation of activity is allowed until 31 December 2022, for citizens of the European Union who travel daily to Gibraltar to work without having to make contributions in Spain last. As from 1 January 2021, provision is made for the reimbursement of benefits paid by Spain to be claimed from the United Kingdom authorities, once an international instrument establishing the mechanisms for collaboration in this area has been agreed.
  • For nationals of EU Member States, periods accredited in the UK social security system up to 31 December 2020 will be considered for the calculation of unemployment benefits or benefits for cessation of activity, when these contributions are made last in Spain and provided that the right to reside legally in Spain is maintained, in accordance with the regulations on the co-ordination of social security systems. UK citizens will have their periods of work in any EU Member State recognized until 31 December for the purpose of calculating their pensions when contributions are made last in Spain.
  • Persons receiving unemployment benefits in Spain who were authorized to export their entitlement before 1 January 2021 may continue to receive them until the end of the initial three-month period for which they were authorized to export.
  • European Works Councils or procedures for consulting workers which have been set up or agreed before 1 January 2021 will be maintained. This measure concerns European companies in which workers or companies from the United Kingdom participate and which have their management centralized in Spain.

From 1 January 2021, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is based on the “Trade and Co-operation Agreement” which is a major change for citizens, companies and administrations in the EU and the United Kingdom.

The content of this Agreement is divided into four main blocks: the first on Free Trade, which eliminates quotas and tariffs between the UK and the EU and establishes conditions of fair competition. The second establishes a framework for economic, social, environmental and fisheries cooperation which includes provisions to ensure energy and transport connectivity, as well as coordination in areas related to social security. The third regulates a partnership on internal security based on existing mechanisms such as Europol or Eurojust and includes provisions on the surrender of detainees, the fight against money laundering and the fight against the financing of terrorism. Finally, a fourth block establishes a common governance framework with governance underpinned by an institutional framework that includes an “Association Council”, co-chaired by a member of the European Commission and a representative of the British government at ministerial level, which will supervise the implementation of the Agreement and will be assisted by specialized committees and working groups.

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