©Copyright European Commission

EU-UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement. Architecture of the TCA and interim process for the recognition for holders of EEA / Swiss qualifications.


On 24 December 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom concluded the EU-UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

While this is the most ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ever concluded by the EU, it obviously cannot deliver the kind of free market access that currently exists among and between the EU Member States.

Although the UK has lost open access to the EU market, it nevertheless remains the leading services partner of EU27 and the second market for EU27 (after the USA).

The provisions of the TCA on the mutual recognition of qualifications for regulated professional services are similar to those of the CETA (Canada) and the EU-Japan agreement. Professions are able to submit a Joint Recommendation for a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to the “Partnership Council” (there being no special MRA Committee) using a template which is annexed to the TCA (which is identical to the one appended to the CETA).

ACE and the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB) for the UK have established a joint task-force to continue preparations for such a MRA. However, in the meantime, Directive 2005/36/EEC on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications no longer applies.

However, in the absence of an approved Joint Recommendation for the mutual recognition of qualifications and given that the EU has said that, henceforth, recognition of UK professional qualifications is governed by national policies (see below), it is possible that a myriad of bi-lateral agreements may spring up between UK regulatory/professional bodies and their EU counterparts.

We have yet to analyse the full implications of the TCA regarding temporary cross-border mobility of people (GATS Mode 4), intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) and commitments in relation to contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.   

Meanwhile, from 01.01.2021, the UK has implemented an interim process for the recognition for holders of EEA / Swiss qualifications, the implications of which are as follows:

  1. EEA / Swiss professionals who are already established and have received a recognition decision in the UK will not be affected and such decision will remain valid.
  2. EEA / Swiss professionals who submitted applications to ARB to have their qualifications recognised before exit day, but had not yet received a decision, will have their applications considered/concluded under the Directive procedure as far as possible (within the deadlines set out in the UK Architects’ Act 1997). 
  3. The UK has retained a system of recognition for EEA / Swiss qualifications from 1 January 2021 that is similar to the on-going system in the EEA / Switzerland.
  4. ARB, the UK regulator of architects, will continue to automatically recognise EEA / Swiss qualifications that are listed in point 5.7.1 of Annex V of Directive 2005/36/EC as it had effect on the day the UK exited the EU, provided the applicant has access to the profession in State in which the qualification was obtained.
  5. The UK’s temporary and occasional register will cease to operate on 30 January 2021. Provisions will continue for architects in Switzerland. 
  6. EEA / Swiss qualifications previously falling in the scope of the General System, and acquired rights nationals, will be required to apply under the third country route to recognition. This includes undertaking ARB’s Prescribed Examinations at Part 1 and Part 2, as well as the completion of an ARB-prescribed UK Part 3 qualification. 
  7. EEA / Swiss architects who have not started an application for recognition in the UK before 1 January 2021 will be subject to the arrangements described at (4) above.  

Implications for the recognition, in EU27, of holders of UK qualifications
The European Commission’s “Notice to Stakeholders” states that as of the withdrawal date, “UK nationals will be third country nationals and hence Directive 2005/36/EC no longer applies to them”. It follows that:

Recognition of professional qualifications of UK nationals in an EU-27 Member States will be governed by national policies and rules of that Member State irrespective of whether the qualifications of the UK national were obtained in the UK, in another third country or in an EU-27 Member State;

The temporary or occasional provision of services by UK nationals in an EU-27 Member State, even if they are already legally established in an EU-27 Member State, will be governed by the national policies and rules of that Member State.

The EU Commission has also stated that “the withdrawal of the UK does not affect decisions on the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in the UK taken before the withdrawal date on the basis of Directive 2005/36/EC) by an EU-27 Member State”

For further information please consult:
-  the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB):
-  for ARB information on EU Exit:
-  to contact ARB for advice:
-  the website of the European Commission on free movement of professionals professionals/qualifications-recognition_en
-  the website of the Architects’ Council of Europe for contact details of its Member Organisations:

List of acronyms:
TCA: Trade & Cooperation Agreement
FTA: Free Trade Agreement
CETA: Trade agreement between the EU and Canada
MRA: Mutual Recognition Agreement
ICTs: intra-corporate transferees
ARB: Architects’ Registration Board
GATS: General Agreement on Trade in Services



Back to top