This article appeared here on the news Platform Daily Business
With a complete absence of any fanfare, and during the UK Parliament summer recess, the Department for Business and Trade announced on 1 August that plans to replace the CE or Conformité Européene safety mark with a new UKCA mark were to be delayed “indefinitely”. Its announcement signalled this to be “part of a wider package of smarter regulations designed to ease business burdens and help grow the economy by cutting barriers and red tape”.
The Guardian trumpeted the change as: “UK to retain EU safety mark in latest Brexit climbdown” while the Financial Times declared: “Business breathes sigh of relief after post-Brexit goods safety mark ditched”.
Whilst not announced as the scrapping of the new UKCA system altogether, this appears to be the political equivalent of kicking it into the long grass, from where it seems unlikely it will emerge in the future. It comes after a hastily announced delay in November last year which pushed out the deadline for the scrapping of the CE mark on a range of goods to December 2024.
The CE mark indicates that goods meet EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The UKCA mark has been intended to replace this for the UK market and, during the transitional period that has applied until now, either mark can be used in the UK.
What does this mean for business?
Businesses will be free to continue to use CE marking for the range of products covered by the announcement. For goods exported to the EU, the CE mark continues to apply (the UKCA mark is not officially recognised in the EU).
A lack of capacity for recertification testing has been a major concern, whilst some businesses have warned against effectively duplicating the costs of the existing CE marking system, and that manufacturers/importers might not bother separately certifying goods for sale in the UK market, potentially stopping their supply to the UK market.
With this month’s announcement, the “cliff edge” of 31 December 2024 has disappeared and businesses will be free to continue to use CE marking or, if they wish, to adopt the new UKCA regime.
Given the size of the EU market for goods compared to the UK, the future of the UKCA mark looks uncertain, and it is questionable why a manufacturer or importer would bother with the time and expense a UKCA mark when its existing CE mark will be accepted.
Construction and Other Products
However, the new lease of life for the CE mark does not extend to construction products supplied in the GB market (England, Wales and Scotland). For those, the ending of recognition of the CE mark in GB on 30 June 2025 is scheduled to continue as planned. There are also different rules for medical devices, cableways, transportable pressure equipment, unmanned aircraft systems, rail products, marine equipment and ecodesign. So, if you are in one of these sectors, the legislative landscape remains difficult to navigate.
In Northern Ireland, whether for construction products or any other goods, CE marking continues to apply (and the UKNI mark remains available – at least for now).
For business, the move will be welcome, even if significant time and expense has already been incurred to try to recertificate products for the UK market.
As Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the Construction Products Association commented on 1 August, “every day that manufacturers have to wait for clarification from government causes more damage.
“This uncertainty has exacerbated product availability issues, led to UK and foreign manufacturers pulling products from the UK market, diminished investment and R&D, and therefore negatively impacted jobs and the ability of the product sector to support the UK construction industry every day.
“We hope that today’s announcement reflects a new appreciation by policy makers of the cost and burden caused by the CA Mark scheme.”