Manufacturers are concerned about the current lack of detail from government regarding the UK’s post-transition replacement of the ‘CE Mark’.
The CE Mark shows that goods conform to European standards, allowing them to be freely moved within the single market.
Without any detail so far, firms and trade bodies agree they are not being given enough time to prepare to apply for the new UK Conformity Assessed – or ‘UKCA’ – mark which will replace the CE Mark when the UK stops trading under EU rules on 31 December 2020.
Make UK's director of international trade Richard Rumbelow explained to the Daily Update today (21 July) that, like a CE Mark, the UKCA label will be applied to a product by the manufacturer (or their representative) to confirm that it conforms to UK legislation.
He said manufactures will often require the services of a ‘notified body’ to gain the ‘conformity assessment certification’ which is needed to apply for the mark.
Currently companies can apply for a CE Mark using any EU-based body, but from 1 January only UK notifiers will be able to issue the UKCA mark and only EU-based counterparts can issue the CE mark.
UK exporters to the EU will therefore need to have both marks, and the same for EU businesses selling to the UK.
However, it is believed that CE-marked goods can be placed in the Northern Ireland market as part of the Northern Ireland protocol, though this is yet to be confirmed.
It is understood government will not announce details of the new UKCA mark until a decision on mutual recognition of each other's marks is reached as part of the ongoing UK-EU trade talks.
However, as the FT reports, manufacturers are worried they will not be given enough time to complete the administration required to get the new UKCA mark – mutual recognition or not – if they have to wait for this decision to be made.
The government had previously suggested there would be a “time-limited” transition during which both CE and UKCA marks would be accepted for products on the UK market, but this advice was withdrawn on 30 January 2020.
Japanese car manufacturer Honda told the FT it needs updated guidance on the UKCA mark to ensure it can continue supplying products to the UK.
“The remaining time in 2020 is simply too short to design, test and guarantee compliance with whatever the new UK requirements will be before the end of the year,” the company said.
Shakespeare agreed with the sentiment that businesses need certainty to prepare for post-transition trading.
“We are keen, on behalf of our members and the wider community of traders, to be fully appraised of the details of the new UKCA mark to help them plan for it”, he said.
Rumbelow told the Daily Update that the prospect of “fast-tracking a significant business change” for the start of next year will “add costs and regulatory pressures” to businesses already grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The change doesn’t just affect companies directly, it affects the entire eco-system of how the notified body process and product compliance will operate, and not just in the UK and EU,” he said.
“There is concern that unless sufficient market surveillance is in place in the UK, non-compliant goods could be placed on the UK market.
“Government need to appreciate the reality of the situation and unilaterally recognise CE marking for an extended time period in order for the business sector to adjust.”