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Mutual recognition of professional qualifications key to EU trade deal

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Prime minister Boris Johnson has held out the prospect of continued retention and recruitment of architects across European borders post-Brexit, saying he wants mutual recognition of UK and EU qualifications to be part of trade deal negotiations

Johnson, who is pushing for a Canada-style free-trade deal with the EU, said any agreement ‘should provide a pathway’ for mutual recognition, ‘underpinned by regulatory co-operation, so that qualification requirements do not become an unnecessary barrier’.

Last year the government said it would continue to recognise EU-qualified architects – currently governed by the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive system – even in the event of a no-deal Brexit (see below).  

Johnson’s pledge was made in a detailed written statement to Parliament that accompanied yesterday’s speech in Greenwich in which the PM said the UK was no longer bound to accept Brussels-made rules ‘on competition policy, subsidies, social protection, the environment, or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules’.

Responding to the news, RIBA chief executive, Alan Vallance said: ‘I am pleased to see the prime minister identify mutual recognition of professional qualifications as a priority for the future trade deal between the UK and EU.

As the RIBA and the Architects Council of Europe have made clear, [this] is essential for the sector to grow and without it, UK and EU architecture practices will struggle to recruit the talent they need.’

But Vallance warned that a deal was needed sooner rather than later. He added: ’Until the European Commission and UK Government agree tangible details however, architects remain unable to plan for the future. The RIBA will continue to make the case for [mutual recognition] as a trade deal is finalised.’

The recognition of qualifications was one of five key issues highlighted by David Green, director of Belsize Architects and former head of the European division of the Bank of England in his recent post-Brexit survival guide for practices. He said: ‘All sizes of practice will need to stay alert to how the negotiations evolve and what they mean for their own practices.’

What will happen if there is a no deal … the government’s previous position from January 2019

The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive will no longer apply to the UK and there will be no system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the remaining EEA states and the UK.

As such, the Architects Act 1997 will be amended via a statutory instrument to correct deficiencies in the system for recognition of professional qualifications that arise in law as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is to ensure that the current arrangement of automatic recognition of EEA-qualified architects operates as closely as is possible, subject to any immigration rules that may be in place.

In the event that the statutory instrument is not laid, the Architects Registration Board will continue operating under the current act for a short time, until the statutory instrument comes into force.

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