Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

News 31/12/2020

EU-UK reach draft trade and cooperation agreement

On 24 December 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom reached an agreement in principle on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The Commission proposed Council decisions on the signature and provisional application, and on the conclusion of the Agreements.

The Agreement will confer rights and obligations on both the EU and the UK, in full respect of their sovereignty and regulatory autonomy. It will be governed by an institutional framework on the operation and enforcement of the Agreement, as well as binding dispute settlement and enforcement mechanisms.

Free movement of persons

By leaving the EU, the UK has chosen to put an end to the free movement of persons between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021.

All movements after 1 January 2021 will be subject to the EU's and UK's existing immigration legislation applicable to all third country nationals.

Those who were or had been already in a cross-border situation between the EU and the UK before 1 January 2021 are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement, which allows for their continued right to remain or work, ensures non-discrimination and protects their social security rights.

Social security coordination

The Agreement covers EU citizens, UK and third-country nationals, stateless persons and refugees, in a cross-border situation as of 1 January 2021, legally residing in the EU or the UK, and whose situation is not confined to a single country from a social security perspective. It also covers their family members and survivors.

The Agreement ensures that social security benefits are coordinated. It also ensures that only one set of rules applies to a person at any given time. This will avoid the risk that such a person would pay double social security contributions or that no legislation applies to them at a given moment and are therefore left without social security protection.

The draft Agreement provides wide protection to EU and UK citizens. The majority of social security benefits will be coordinated and protected between the EU and the UK.


Healthcare is included in the scope of the Agreement and the current arrangements will, in principle, continue to apply. For example, an EU citizen on a temporary stay in the UK (a tourist, student, or business person) will continue to benefit from necessary (such as emergency) healthcare based on the European Health Insurance Card.

Posted workers

The posting of workers is part of the free movement of services within the EU, subject to conditions. The Agreement does not include rules for the posting of UK workers in the EU, or vice-versa. This means that, for example, a worker sent by the UK to the EU to work will have to pay social security contributions in the EU Member State and will be subject to the legislation of that country.

It was however agreed that in this area, and as a transitional provision, Member States may request, upon notification to the Commission, to continue the posting system as it exists now for a period of up to 15 years. Member States can terminate the posting system earlier.

During this period of time, posted workers will then pay their social security contributions in the Party that sent them.

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