UKCA update: "Clarity cannot come soon enough"
23 November 2023
ONE OF the legacy issues for industry following the UK referendum on leaving the EU has been the initial proposal to end recognition of the well-established CE marking requirements and the introduction of a UK equivalent called UKCA marking.
There have been many changes in the timeline for the introduction of the UKCA Marking:
31 December 2020
Initially, UKCA marking was due to come into force immediately when the UK left the EU single market and customs union (on the 31st of December 2020). It was introduced by BEIS (The government department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy) and the guidance was to comply with the required regulations and apply the UKCA marking as soon as possible.
1 January 2022
The plan was for the UK to cease recognition of CE marking from 1st January 2022, with all goods placed on the GB market carrying the new UKCA Marking and being accompanied with UK Declarations of Conformity (stating compliance to TK “Designated” Standards).
It is very important to make a distinction, here, as ‘UK’ includes Northern Ireland (NI), which still has some uncertainty regarding the future direction of goods compliance. The Windsor Framework and Stormont Brake give the NI Assembly the opportunity to temporarily stop any changes to EU goods regulations from applying in NI if the Assembly fears that the changes would have “significant and lasting effects on everyday lives.”
1 January 2023
It became apparent, however, that the UK assessment bodies were not ready for the implementation deadline and needed to make significant investments in resources and personnel to cope with the backlog. So, the UK government granted a 12-month extension to recognition of CE marking, moving the deadline to 1st January 2023(with a clear statement that there would be no further extensions granted).
1 January 2025
Then, as the deadline loomed ever closer, a further extension (of 24 months, this time) was granted, to the 1st of January 2025…
1 August 2023
An indefinite extension to recognition of the CE mark in areas covered by the Government Department for Business and Trade has now been granted.
Where we are today...
On the 1 of August 2023, the Government Department for Business and Trade (DBT) announced the indefinite extension of recognition of CE marking for placing "a wide range of goods" on the GB market, these being:
- recreational craft and personal watercraft
- electromagnetic compatibility
- non-automatic weighing instruments
- measuring instruments
- measuring container bottles
- equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres (UKEX)
- radio equipment
- pressure equipment
- simple pressure vessels
- personal protective equipment (PPE)
- gas appliances
- equipment for use outdoors
- low voltage electrical equipment
BCAS call for further clarity
1. A government position on UKCA/CE Marking
The industry needs an urgent Government position on UKCA/CE marking, not simply a DBT position. Many products are covered by regulations that are the responsibility of other departments and some product categories that are primarily DBT are no further forward because they also depend on similar decisions being taken by other departments, including DEFRA.
These areas include:
- medical devices
- construction products
- transportable pressure equipment
- unmanned aircraft systems
- rail products
- marine equipment
2. The term ‘indefinite extension’
While this was supposed to bring confidence to British industry, the very nature of the word indefinite causes concern. What could possibly cause the DBT to cease this recognition and what is the process? Without certainty, industry will struggle to work with this announcement.
3. Divergence remains an issue
We need urgent and specific clarification as to whether CE marking will continue to be recognised indefinitely, where the two jurisdictions diverge. That should include instances where the UK has (what are considered) higher standards, the EU has higher standards, or the standards are simply different.
Some large customers have stated they will continue to require the UKCA regime to be maintained pending legal certainty.
Which marking will UK establishments and Government organisations expect to be used in future supply of goods and service is an additional query.
The EU is moving rapidly towards e-labelling as an alternative to CE marks. DBT should clarify, urgently, that these will be accepted equally with CE marks. Companies need these assurances not only for placing product on the market but for future production requirements.
Future marking of assemblies, for example containerised compressed air systems, causes a level of uncertainty. Today there may be no current issues as we are yet to have divergence of regulations, but when divergence ultimately happens, the dual marking system may cease to be a valid option. This will be an important consideration for many compressed air distributors and their customers.
Reaction to the announcement
While BCAS welcomes the movement to a closer recognition of the CE marking, steps towards mutual recognition (should that be possible) is still urged as the optimum trading environment.
The reactions from industry were mixed between relief and frustration especially for those diligent organisations who made the early effort to ensure compliance with the UKCA marking requirements.
Further detailed work is required to understand fully the future landscape, allowing industry to plan effectively for its future production schedules. With most of the compressed air supply chain either being Europe-based or with a major interest in the European market this clarity cannot come soon enough.
Tim Preece is technical officer at the British Compressed Air Society
Tel: 0207 935 2464