Insights Government publishes UK EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Following the Government’s announcement that an agreement on the future relationship between the EU and the UK had been agreed on 24 December 2020, the Government published the full text of the Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 30 December 2020.

Part Two, Title II covers “Services and Investment”, under which the parties affirm their commitment to establish a favourable climate for the development of trade and investment between them. Chapter 3 covers “Cross-border trade in services”, and Chapter 5 covers the “Regulatory Framework”, including “Telecommunications services” in section 4, which covers telecommunications regulatory authorities, interconnection, access and use, competitive safeguards on major suppliers, universal service, number portability, open internet access and mobile roaming.

Part Two, Title III covers “Digital Trade”, the objective of which is stated to be to facilitate digital trade, to address unjustified barriers to trade enabled by electronic means and to ensure an open, secure and trustworthy online environment for businesses and consumers.

Title III applies to EU and UK measures affecting trade enabled by electronic means, but specifically excludes audiovisual services. It includes provisions covering:

  • Data flows and personal data protection: the parties commit to ensuring cross-border data flows to facilitate trade in the digital economy;
  • Customs duties on electronic transmissions: electronic transmissions will be considered as the supply of a service and there shall be no customs duties on electronic transmissions;
  • Conclusion of contracts by electronic means: both parties must ensure that, except in certain areas including broadcasting services and gambling services, contracts may be concluded by electronic means;
  • Online consumer trust: recognising the importance of enhancing consumer trust in digital trade, the parties agree to adopt or maintain measures to ensure the effective protection of consumers engaging in electronic commerce transactions;
  • Direct marketing: the parties agree to ensure that users are effectively protected against unsolicited direct marketing communications; and
  • Cooperation on regulatory issues with regard to digital trade: the parties agree to exchange information on regulatory matters in the context of digital trade to address (i) the recognition and facilitation of interoperable electronic trust and authentication services; (ii) the treatment of direct marketing communications; (iii) the protection of consumers; and (iv) any other matter relevant for the development of digital trade, including emerging technologies; however, this does not apply to a party’s rules and safeguards for the protection of personal data and privacy, including on cross-border transfers of personal data.

Part Two, Title V sets out the provisions on Intellectual Property under which both parties agree to cooperate on the recognition and enforcement of IP rights.

Part Seven covers Final Provisions and Article 10A sets out interim provisions for the transmission of personal data from the EU to the UK. Essentially, the parties agreed that, for a period of four months which can be extended by a further two months (together the Specified Period), the transmission of personal data from the EU to the UK will not be considered a transfer to a third country. If the EU Commission adopts an adequacy decision in relation to the UK before the end of the Specified Period, then the Specified Period will end.

On 31 December 2020, the European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 was given Royal Assent, thereby giving effect to the TCA. To access the TCA in full, click here.