What do exporters need to know about the CE Mark post Brexit?

Wed 3 Apr 2019
Posted by: William Barns-Graham

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The ‘CE Mark’, standing for ‘Conformité Européenne’, has long been used by UK manufacturers, distributors and suppliers for moving certain goods around Europe. During the late 80s it was adopted as a European safety standard within the single market for various products including electronics and electrical equipment, machinery, batteries, medical devices, toys and more. The UK, indeed, was one of the major parties lobbying for such a standardisation – according to ‘Scientists for the EU’.

Before the CE Mark was introduced, companies exporting to different European nations were required to adjust their products for different national safety requirements throughout Europe. National safety standards often effectively existed as import barriers, established to protect home-produced products from overseas competition.

Since being introduced, the ‘CE Mark’ has been required for many goods being moved within the single market; this has allowed for the exporter to sell broadly the same product throughout Europe. The Department for International Trade website explains that it fulfils the following functions:

  • Shows that the manufacturer has checked that these products meet EU safety, health or environmental requirements;
  • Is an indicator of a product’s compliance with EU legislation;
  • Allows the free movement of products within the European market

The CE mark also applies to products made in third countries that are sold into or within the EEA and Turkey.

What happens to the ‘CE Mark’ after Brexit?

The first thing to note is that all CE rules will apply until the UK has actually left the Single Market – which could be at the end of a transition arrangement or sooner should the UK crash out without a deal. Even should a ‘no deal’ Brexit take place, the majority of CE Marking legislation is already written into UK legislation, so UK businesses potentially will be able to still use the CE Mark within the UK and the EU.

However, once the UK has left the single market, it may well exist as a third-party country and would therefore have the capacity thereafter to alter its legislation, possibly allowing discrepancies between CE rules and the UK’s newly independent standards to arise. It is thought that the UK will likely continue with much of the same legislation going forwards, but there is scope for a change in direction – most likely in relation to health and safety or environmental legislation.

In this scenario, the UK exporter will need to ensure they continue to conform to CE mark rules when selling into Europe, but they may need to adjust their product to conform to new UK regulations; or should the EU change rules relating to the CE Mark but the UK maintain its existing rules, the exporter will need to adjust its products to meet the CE Mark when exporting to the EU.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive explain:

“The manufacturer, or the manufacturer's authorised (in writing) representative in Europe (in the UK they are known as the Responsible Person), carry the full responsibility for the safety and conformity of the product. This duty must be met before the product is placed on the market or put into service.”

By leaving the EU, the UK may well forfeit much of its influence over the future of the rules behind the use of the CE Mark, which could result in the UK looking to implement its own rules over which it would retain full control.

As things stand, however, the exit will not have an effect on the UK’s participation in European standards bodies like CEN and CENELEC – according to CE Marking specialists ‘Conformance’.

Given the UK government’s insistence that it wishes to preserve frictionless trade between the UK and the EU, it remains likely that some regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU will persist in relating to the rules for using the CE Mark.

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