As it stands, the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October 2019 without an agreed deal or any form of transitional arrangements, meaning that there is a great deal of uncertainty for our clients in running their businesses. Of particular concern is the impact of a so called “no deal” on the manufacturing sector.
We have put together a series of briefing notes outlining the position for different topics important to our manufacturing and retail clients. We recommend that clients keep up to date with ongoing Brexit developments on the UK government website. This not only contains extensive guidance on a number of relevant topics but also provides an alert service for sector specific updates as and when they are published.
One area that UK manufacturers will need to pay close attention to is the use and validity of CE marks after Brexit.
The CE Mark
At present, many manufacturers are required to affix a CE mark to their products. Placement of a CE mark evidences that the manufacturer has checked that its products meet EU product safety and environmental standards and allows for free movement of those products throughout the EU. CE marks are only required for certain types of products covered by EU harmonisation legislation including, among others, medical devices, machinery, measuring instruments, electrical equipment and toys. A manufacturer can obtain a CE mark either through a self-declaration or, where required by specific legislation, through a third–party conformity assessment body.
Placing manufactured goods on the UK Market after Brexit
Manufacturers with CE marked products will be able to continue to sell products into the UK market in limited circumstances and for a limited time. These include where the CE mark is self-certified or where a third party conformity assessment has been either undertaken by an EU recognised notified body or a UK issued certificate of conformity has been transferred to an EU notified body. Post Brexit the UK will still recognise the CE certification for a limited period (not yet specified) if the above conditions apply. Government guidance indicates that there will be a consultation and extensive notice to businesses of when this arrangement will cease.
To replace the CE mark, the UK is introducing a new UKCA marking (UK Conformity Assessed) that will be used, assuming a no-deal Brexit, for the majority of those goods that currently fall under the CE mark regime.
Manufacturers will need to apply the UKCA marking (immediately post-Brexit) where all of the following apply:
- The product is for the UK market;
- The product requires mandatory third-party conformity assessment; and
- A conformity assessment has been carried out by a UK conformity assessment body (the notified body).
For self-certified products there will not be any immediate impact. Manufacturers will, for a limited period after Brexit, be able to choose between CE marking and UKCA marking for UK products. For manufacturers supplying to both the EU and domestic markets, current guidance indicates that the dual marking of products (with CE and UKCA marks) will be permissible.
Placing manufactured goods on the EU Market after Brexit
The UKCA marking will not be recognised by the EU after Brexit. Products which currently require a CE mark will continue to require one after Brexit if they are to be sold in the EU.
The most significant post-Brexit impact will be on UK manufacturers who have had conformity assessments undertaken by UK notified bodies. These conformity assessments will no longer be recognised by the EU even if undertaken prior to the UK’s departure.
UK manufacturers will therefore need to:
- have these assessments redone by an appointed EU-recognised notified body;
- arrange for the conformity certification to be transferred to an EU notified body prior to Brexit; or
- check whether the UK notified body is taking steps to do this on the manufacturer’s behalf.
It is highly recommended that manufacturers liaise with their notified body for advice if they have not done so already. If an EU notified body is needed, the EU’s NANDO database contains relevant information on EU-recognised notified bodies and can be accessed here.
All products requiring third party assessment will need to be re-marked with the new four digit codes assigned to the individual EU-recognised notified bodies.
Note, there will be no impact on UK manufacturers who:
- have already placed their products on the EU market prior to Brexit; or
- continue to use CE marks on products through the self-certification route; or
- voluntarily use a testing or notified body to test against European or international standards.
Non-harmonised goods to the EU
The changes outlined above relate to products currently covered by EU harmonisation legislation. However, there will also be significant changes for manufactured goods falling outside the scope of EU product-wide legislation known as non-harmonised goods. Non-harmonised goods include products such as furniture, textiles, bikes and cooking utensils among many others. Currently these products are regulated at a national level and, in some cases are not regulated at all other than a general requirement that they must be safe when placed on the EU market.
At present non-harmonised goods are free to circulate on the EU and EEA markets under a principle of mutual recognition. This prevents an EU country from prohibiting the sale of a product which has already been placed on the market in a different EU country. The principle of mutual recognition applies even where there are differences in national standards of regulation.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will no longer be able to benefit from the mutual recognition arrangements. Therefore UK manufacturers of non-harmonised goods will need to ensure that their products meet the national standards of the first EU country that they export to (ignoring any EU countries through which the goods may pass to get there). Once placed on the EU market at that point, the products can then benefit from the EU mutual recognition arrangements.
For further advice on how Brexit may affect your business, please contact:
Robert Starr (Director, Regulation & Compliance)
Matthew Talbot (Partner, Intellectual Property)
Hannah Steggles (Partner, Intellectual Property)