Are your products Brexit ready?

By Richard Bate, Build Check.

The transition period for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union was due to end on Thursday December 31, 2020.

At the time of writing, we were still in a position where nobody knew whether we will be leaving in a deal or no deal situation and, in the event of a no deal situation, whether we will be operating to the World Trade Organization’s rules of global trade or some other system of tariffs and controls.

Uncertainty is never healthy for markets and almost always causes major issues for business, and the present circumstances make it difficult to plan for the immediate and medium-term future with any real certainty (no pun intended).

For most of 2020, the headlines have been mainly concerned with the coronavirus situation ,and EU-UK negotiations have taken a back seat. The prospect remains of the UK leaving the single market without a trade deal. Our membership of the EU finished at the end of January 2020 and, since then, the UK has been in a transition period during which it remains part of the EU single market; this was due to end at 11pm on December 31, 2020.

The UKCA mark (United Kingdom Conformity Assessed) was due to be phased in from January 1, 2021 to replace the CE mark in the UK, with the CE mark remaining temporarily valid to ease the changeover.

The UKCA mark is a new UK product marking for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). The UKCA mark alone cannot be used for goods placed on the market in Northern Ireland, which require the CE mark or UK(NI) marking. The UKCA mark will not be recognised in the European Union where your products will still require a CE mark.

From January 1, 2021 the technical requirements (‘essential requirements’) you must meet, and the conformity assessment processes and standards that can be used to demonstrate conformity, will be essentially the same as they are now.

The UKCA marking can be used from January 1, 2021. However, to allow businesses time to adjust to the new requirements, the CE marking can still be used until January 1, 2022 in most cases. It will be prudent for businesses to ensure that their accreditations are updated as required sooner rather than later as any last minute rush as the co-existence period draws to a close will almost certainly cause delays and consequent issues of non-conformity.

The CE marking will only be valid in Great Britain for areas where GB and EU rules remain the same. If the EU changes its rules, and you CE mark your product on the basis of those new rules, you will not be able to use the CE marking to sell in Great Britain, even before December 31, 2021.

Businesses must prepare for the end of recognition of the CE mark in GB and affix the UK marking using a UK-recognised ‘approved body’ by January 1, 2022.

Businesses are being encouraged now to be ready for the full implementation of the new UK regime, as soon as possible after January 1, 2021. Businesses will be able to use the UK mark from January 1, 2021. To allow businesses time to adjust, some CE marked goods that meet EU requirements may continue to be placed on the UK market.

However, this arrangement will end on January 1, 2022, and businesses should ensure they are prepared for the new system before it comes into effect.

Your current CE mark required assessment by a notified body (such as Build Check). From January 1, UK notified bodies will be required for the UKCA mark process but will not be able to certify in the European Union. While previous or historic testing will be accepted, historic certification will cease to be effective. Similarly, European notified bodies, while still able to assess for the CE mark, will not be able to certify in Great Britain.

This situation unfortunately applies new layers of red tape for businesses that are already jumping through hoops to deal with issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic and will inevitably be most unwelcome.

The Phenna Group management team realised that combining the testing capabilities and accreditations of two group companies, the Brexit issue (ie, complications with EU and UK compliance) can be resolved within one organisation (ie, Build Check in Buckinghamshire, partnering with BET in Wexford, Ireland).

BET and Build Check will offer a range of EU and UK compliant services, among which is the facility for U-value calculation for fenestration products and more to follow Q1 2021.

Build Check has Ukas accreditation while BET is accredited by INAB (the Irish National Accreditation Board). Between the two companies, all bases are covered and continually extending scope during 2021.

Build Check can provide you with your U-value calculations for UKCA mark purposes with Ukas approval and, at the same time, for a nominal extra charge you can obtain your INAB-accredited U-value calculation for your CE mark. You will then be able to take your products to market in the United Kingdom and the European Union.