The UK government will give a major concession to British business by extending the deadline for companies to adopt the new ‘UKCA’ label for safety and quality for their goods after Brexit.
The one-year extension for UK products to continue using the EU’s « CE » safety label came after companies warned they would not be ready for a planned post-Brexit transition away from EU certification at the end of 2021.
The government rollback will give UK manufacturers vital breathing room, who have warned of risks to the British supply chain if they can no longer use products made abroad.
Under UK plans, companies will now have until January 2023 to apply for the new UK Conformity Assessment marks, according to a person familiar with the move.
The government said the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for companies to prepare for the change, which would require manufactured products to be tested and hold UKCA certification to replace the European Union’s CE mark.
To win UKCA status, products must be approved by Britain-based mandate bodies, causing a backlog of orders for key ingredients.
Trade groups, including car makers, elevator manufacturers and building supply groups, have repeatedly warned that the UK does not have enough capacity to handle the massive demand for product testing.
They also warned the government that EU-based suppliers were in many cases not ready to obtain the UKCA label in order to supply goods to the UK market, raising the risk of dangerous gaps in British supply chains.
The companies added that when EU companies supplied only a small number of goods or components, they were not willing to incur the costs of certifying these products for a few UK companies.
The UK certification applies to the processes used to make the parts as well as the parts themselves, which adds further complications.
The UK is facing a crisis
« We don’t have the capacity in many areas such as construction products and pyrotechnics, » said Fergus McCrinolds, director of EU affairs at trade manufacturing group Make UK.
The UK faces an ongoing crisis through the end of the year as more companies race to advance. Supplies will also be cut off if outside suppliers are not ready. The question then is how to motivate them to use CA tags.”
Trade bodies are also working with officials to simplify the process of transferring existing CE marks to the UK’s new certification system, which recognizes previous EU registrations as valid but requires conversion to UKCA marks.
Nick Mellor, managing director of the Elevator and Escalator Industry Association, said the extension is necessary to enable certification bodies to work with the thousands of designs and safety components that need to be re-certified.
William Payne, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, which has led calls for an extension, welcomed the delay until January 1, 2023, but cautioned that the government still had to consult before pulling the plug completely on CE-branded goods. after that date.
He added that even with the extension, companies involved in complex supply chains, such as the automotive sector, would still incur significant costs from having to duplicate UKCA and CE markings on some components. « This could harm the production of these industries, limit the availability of goods to consumers, and create increased cost pressures on British companies, » he added.
Sam Lowe, a trade expert at the Center for European Reform, a think-tank, said that since the UK is unlikely to differ from EU commodity rules in practice in most areas, it makes sense to continue to allow CE-marked goods to be sold in The United Kingdom, both now and in the distant future.
This was also the case because CE marks must be recognized in Northern Ireland in perpetuity under the terms of the UK-EU agreement covering trade between Northern Ireland and the EU after Brexit.
Russell Petty, CEO of the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, welcomed the government’s move. « We are keen to work closely with the government to work through these undoubtedly complex issues, » he added.
In a statement, the UK’s Department for Business said the UKCA label was « designed to allow » the UK to control its post-Brexit commodity regulation. He added that extending the deadline in light of the ongoing impact of the pandemic would provide « clarity and certainty » for the business. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021
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