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Internal audit qualifications and European travel

What do internal auditors have in common with lorry drivers and fruit pickers?

Each has a unique set of skills that are unregulated and impacted as a result of the UK leaving the EU. Short supply and restricted movement of internal auditors thankfully is not an issue, however, as a cornerstone of good corporate governance, what do we need to be aware of - for ourselves and our organisations?

Impact on internal auditors

Internal audit is not a regulated profession. All professional qualifications that were in place prior to 1 January 2021 remains unaffected. Members’ designations are also unaffected. 

Our ability to move freely through Europe for work purposes has changed.

Let’s look at this and related issues for our organisations.

Travelling to Europe for work

Internal auditors who are British citizens will have most reasons for work travel, such as attending a business meeting or conference, covered by a Schengen visa waiver.

A visa, work permit or other documentation may be needed if you are planning to stay for longer than 90 days in a 180-day period, or if you will be doing any of the following:

  • Transferring from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country (‘intra-corporate transfer’), even for a short period of time
  • Carrying out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which your employer has no presence
  • Providing services in another country as a self-employed person.

Click here for more information on business travel.

Question: How has your organisation managed the risks associated with European travel? Are you confident of your own responsibilities if travelling to Europe for work purposes?

Professional Qualifications Bill

The Professional Qualifications Bill, introduced to Parliament in May 2021, will create a framework for recognising professional qualifications from all countries that benefits the UK. The bill will aim to meet the needs of a priority set of professions where there is demand for skills from overseas while respecting regulators’ autonomy to uphold standards. This will also support UK professionals to access markets overseas and provide their services in other countries.

The new bill will support over 160 professions regulated by law, by more than 50 regulators, plus a range of other professions regulated voluntarily.

The UK is currently operating under a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU and is no longer bound by the EU’s Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005 (MRPQ).

The FTA is a huge tomb of 1,246 pages! The framework for recognising professional qualifications is outlined on pages 97-98 and 770-774. In summary, there is a complex interim scheme of mutual recognition for many professions until the new bill is legislated.

Question: Has your organisation identified all regulated professions that are required to perform or sign-off on activities? What assurance has been provided to the board?

External auditors

The rules for auditing UK companies operating solely in the UK have not changed.

UK audit firms and auditors (statutory/external auditors) operating in European Economic Area countries are impacted and qualifications may not be recognised. This is particularly relevant for organisations that operate across jurisdictions within Europe.

Question: Is your organisation fully aware of any implications for year-end audits?

Looking ahead

Internal auditors should always be looking to provide insight and foresight, particularly in times of uncertainty. The last year has seen immense pressure for our Board’s with two ‘once in a work lifetime’ events - Brexit and the pandemic – add to this the looming presence of climate risk and it would be understandable if a plate stopped spinning and smashed to the floor.

Question: What are you doing today to catch the plate before it falls?

Content reviewed: 1 February 2023