How will Brexit affect freelancers?
As of 11pm on 31st December 2020, the United Kingdom has officially completed its transition out of the European Union under Brexit. As a result, a new set of rules and regulations have come into play around the working relationship between the UK and countries in the EU.
This development has created some uncertainty for businesses, which could also impact freelancers. While employers may have a plan for minimising the impact of Brexit on their business, areas such as intellectual property (IP) protection, tax regulations and free movement are a major concern for freelancers.
Based on the contents of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement in its latest form (as of January 2021), this guide will take a look at how Brexit will affect freelancers in terms of:
- Intellectual property
- Working in the EU
- Professional qualifications
- Finding freelance work.
Rules around intellectual property and copyright have significantly changed under Brexit. Previously, trademarks registered with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) were protected across the EU, including the UK – but this is no longer the case. From January 2021, you will need separate trademarks for the UK and the EU to guarantee IP protection in both domains.
All existing EU trademarks (EUTM) have been automatically registered as a separate UK trademark by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO). This comparable trademark will share the last 8 digits of the EUTM, prefixed with UK009. Owners can access information about their new rights and obtain a certificate of registration online at the gov.uk website.
If your EUTM application was pending on 1st January 2021, you have nine months to register the same trademark in the UK – up to and including 30th September 2021.
Going forward, any new trademarks will need to be registered with both the EUIPO and the UKIPO, if necessary. When renewing your trademark, you will need to pay your renewal fees to both parties.
As your UK trademark is completely independent to its EU counterpart, you will need a UK service address if you wish to challenge, defend or apply for a patent, trademark or design with UKIPO.
How this affects freelancers
If you’re responsible for administrating or even creating new intellectual property, you’ll need to bear in mind these new changes as they will undoubtedly impact your day-to-day work and potentially increase the amount of paperwork. You’ll also need to account for the extra renewal fees if you wish for your work to be protected in both the UK and the EU.
Working in the EU
A survey conducted by peopleperhour.com in 2019 showed that freelancers’ main concern around Brexit was the potential end of free movement and how this could impact their work. With the agreed deal introducing a number of new regulations and restrictions for travelling to Europe, it’s important to understand how these changes will affect business travel and working in the EU.
When travelling to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you need to:
- Ensure your passport has at least 6 months left and is less than 10 years old on the day of travel.
- Purchase the appropriate level of travel insurance which also covers healthcare.
- Make sure you have the correct driving documents. If you’re taking your own car, you will need to get a green card and GB sticker.
- If you are bringing goods to sell abroad or use for your business, you will also need to make a customs declaration
For short business trips, such as a meeting with a client or a conference, you can travel to Europe for less than 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. However, if you plan on staying for longer than 90 days, you will need a visa or work permit. You will also require a visa, work permit or other documentation if you are providing business services as a self-employed person during your trip.
Visas vary depending on the European country you are travelling to, so you will need to contact the relevant embassy to find out what type of documentation is required. It usually takes around 15 days for the embassy to process your visa.
Travel costs will most likely increase as a result of these changes, especially with the additional visa fees, so it’s important to consider this when figuring out your own business expenses and pricings.
From January 2021, the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive no longer applies to the UK. This means that your UK certifications and professional memberships are no longer recognised in the EU, unless you are a lawyer.
This development could affect your ability to perform the same tasks for EU clients as you do for UK clients. You may need to get additional credentials or register with the equivalent governing body of the relevant EU country, so it’s best to look into this before you agree to any work.
Will Brexit make it harder to find freelance work?
Brexit is an unsettling situation for many businesses, but it shouldn’t stop you from being able to find freelance work. Provided you adjust to the new rules and regulations, you should still be able to continue doing work for overseas clients. However, there are a couple of things to monitor and prepare for as a freelancer.
A main issue is the expected hit to the economy, at least in the short erm, and whether this will impact financial flexibility for businesses to outsource work. This could result in freelancers within certain industries losing clients, so we recommend keeping an eye on the UK economy for your industry as the aftermath of Brexit develops.
There are also the upcoming IR35 changes in April 2021, which will change the way off-payroll tax works within the private sector. This will be a major change for freelancers and, combined with Brexit, could lead to a tough few months ahead. Find out further information about these IR35 changes and how it might affect freelancers.
If you are uncertain about working with EU-based clients, you could focus on looking for more UK-based work. As some EU workers may decide not to work in the UK, there may be an increase in local opportunities. 23% of freelancers also feel that Brexit could be an opportunity to provide support and help their clients adapt to the new business regulations – these extra services may be something you want to consider.
Now you know how Brexit might impact your work as freelancer, you can start adjusting your way of work to fit the new regulations around intellectual property, travel and qualifications. If you would like further advice and information about freelancing and self-employment, take a look at our articles available on the Markel website.
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