The UK government has conceded that Brexit has created barriers to business travel in a report published Wednesday by the House of Lords, the upper house of the country's Parliament. The report, written by the Lords' European Union Select Committee, warns that new restrictions on mobility will hinder the UK's dominant services sector.
"We recognise that there are now additional processes when travelling abroad for work, including potentially longer lead-in times and additional costs associated with attaining the required paperwork," said the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in a written submission to the committee. "The Government is committed to supporting individuals and businesses during this period."
Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed by the United Kingdom and European Union on 24 December 2020, many kinds of travel for work between the two now require a visa. Additionally, UK passport holders only may visit the Schengen Area—the EU countries among which travel without border checks is permitted—for 90 days out of 180, while EU passport holders can enter the UK for up to six months at a time.
The report observed that Covid-19 travel restrictions mean the TCA's mobility provisions have not yet been tested, making their impact difficult to assess. A representative of the Department told the committee it is "pulling together summaries of some of the guidance issued by different Member States on the visa and work permit arrangements that are in place."
The TCA's list of "permitted activities [without a visa] for short-term business visitors are limited and would 'exclude many activities,'" the report said, citing the UK's Federation of Small Businesses. The committee warned that "barriers to UK-EU business mobility are a threat to the UK's competitiveness and innovation, as well as to trade."
Services account for 80 per cent of UK economic output, including £317 billion in exports to the EU, which in turn exports £217 billion of services to the UK. In 2019, 4.8 million UK nationals made business trips to the EU, while 5.6 million EU citizens made business trips to the UK.
The committee said it was especially "deeply concerned about the potential impact of mobility provisions in the TCA on the over two million people employed in the creative industries, which could make touring prohibitively bureaucratic and expensive. We call on the Government and EU to work together to remedy this situation before international travel resumes."