After intense negotiations and a transition period of almost a year, the final chapter of the Brexit Crisis was finally able to be opened at the end of 2020: The UK and the EU reached an agreement on a new partnership treaty.
For this agreement, the terms of the long-term economic relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union were renegotiated.
The United Kingdom (i.e. the UK with the exception of Northern Ireland) is no longer part of the EU Single Market and Customs Union, as of January 1st 2021.
What does this mean (in concrete terms) for the movement of goods and the conformity of products imported into the UK?
The new UKCA mark – the UK version of the CE mark
As of January 1st 2021, the UKCA mark (UK Conformity Assessed) is the new product marking for the UK market. It will thus replace the European CE marking in the UK. In other words, manufacturers will have to affix the UKCA mark to their products before they enter the market, in order to confirm that the safety, environmental and health protection requirements (applicable to their products) are met.
What will actually change for manufacturers?
First of all, the UK is transposing existing EU legislation into national law (i.e. specific to each country). Against this backdrop, the norms and standards harmonised by the EU will be converted into so-called UK-designated standards. The technical requirements and the Conformity Assessment procedures for a product will therefore remain unchanged for the time being.
When must the UKCA mark be used?
In order to provide manufacturers with a little more time, products with the CE mark may still be introduced into the UK market until December 31st 2021 as part of a transitional period.
But please take note: In the following scenario, the UKCA mark would need to be used immediately, beginning on January 1st 2021:
- A Conformity Assessment by a so-called Notified Body is mandatory for the product.
The Notified Body is a Conformity Assessment Body, established and recognised in the UK (UKMCAB = UK Market Conformity Assessment Bodies).
- The Conformity Assessment documentation was not forwarded by the UK Body to an EU-recognised Body before January 1st 2021.
Again, the previous (i.e. existing) procedures remain valid: Where a third-party Conformity Assessment was mandatory for CE marked products, it is also required for UKCA-marked products.
What are the rules for affixing the UKCA mark?
Until December 31st 2022, manufacturers are permitted to place the UKCA mark on the product itself, or on an additional label or accompanying documents.
From January 1st 2023, the UKCA mark may only be placed on the product itself. As things stand, it's permissible for the CE mark to be used, in addition to the UKCA mark.
Special status for the Northern Ireland UKNI mark
The Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU provides that Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU single market for goods. As such, the CE mark will continue to be valid.
For those specific products for which testing by a UK Conformity Assessment Body is mandatory, a separate UKNI (United Kingdom Northern Ireland) mark has been created.
The UKNI mark must always be affixed, in addition to the CE mark, if a Notified Body based in the United Kingdom is used in the Conformity Assessment procedure.
The UKCA mark is generally not permitted for the placement of products on the market in Northern Ireland.
What will happen to the economic relationship between the two partners?
The transitional arrangement for affixing the UKCA mark will at least provide manufacturers some breathing space at the beginning of the post-Brexit phase.
Nevertheless, it's important that companies keep an eye on the transitional period and they're aware of the requirements for affixing the UKCA mark to their products at the time of market entry.
One question in particular will be important for the future development of trade relations: Will UK and EU product regulations continue to coincide or will they gradually drift apart? In the latter scenario, it will no longer be sufficient for manufacturers to simply adapt product labelling for the UK market. What this will mean exactly for the sale of products within the UK cannot, of course, be said with certainty at this point.
The good news for you is that with kothes UK Ltd. , you have a competent local partner who keeps a close eye on product conformity for the UK market. If you would like to benefit from our always current market knowledge and need support in entering specific target markets, please feel free to contact us!