CE Marking Acceptance or Smoke and Mirrors?

On 1st August 2023, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) announced an indefinite extension beyond December 2024 for using CE marking in the UK. At first glance a bold decision by the DBT and much lauded by industry pundits and the government. But is it? Having already postponed the transition to UKCA marking three times, are they kicking the can down the road?

The press release goes on to say this comes as part of a wider package of smarter regulations designed to ease business burdens and help grow the economy by cutting barriers and red tape. Following extensive engagement with industry, British firms will be able to continue the use of CE marking alongside UKCA to demonstrate their goods conformed to industrial standards.

CE Marking

Before we celebrate this pronouncement, we need clarification of government intentions. Not only about accepting CE marking for the products listed in the 18 defined standards owned by the DBT, but others too. What about UK RoHS and UK REACH, our versions of the European Directives, and is the Ecodesign Directive supported?

Elsewhere in the same government statement it says UKCA will remain and talks about using UKCA or CE marking. This can only happen when standards are in alignment. But the EU has a history or driving standards through the EU safety directives to protect its citizens. Can the UKCA keep pace?

Why are there two CE Marking standards?

The UKCA safety mark is not recognised anywhere other than in England, Scotland, and Wales. Yet, for any business that exports products from GB, CE marking is a prerequisite, even to Northern Ireland. Importantly, producers outside of Europe often demand CE marking because so many of them export their goods to Europe.

Most areas of EU safety legislation have a UK ‘designated standard’ i.e., a relevant piece of UK legislation upon which to base UKCA. Currently these are drawn from EU Directives, and while standards remain harmonised, problems cannot occur. But if they can remain harmonised, then why have two standards.

In 2021 the BSI and the European Standards Organizations CEN and CENELEC confirmed securing BSI’s full membership. This enables the UK industry and stakeholders to continue maintaining best practice and standards used across Europe and internationally. It also gives the BSI the opportunity to help shape EU standards.

If there is to be no divergence, then why do we need UKCA and CE marking? If there is divergence, then the UK will need a duplicate bureaucracy to maintain its UKCA standards. Having avoided the December 2024 cliff-edge. The DBT needs to come clean before UK producers spend more time and money on UKCA conformance testing.

In the same press release, Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said. “It’s welcome to see the continued recognition of CE marked products. This will allow time for small firms to adjust to the UKCA marking system and focus on growing their business both at home and overseas”.

It was always difficult to see a clear future for UKCA marking. Let us hope this is a way of letting it fade away, at least in some sectors.

Final thought

Wikipedia defines ‘indefinite’ variously as meaning “Without limit; forever; until further notice; not definite; vague, unclear; undecided or uncertain”. Is English not a wonderful language for politicians to use?

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments