CE marking as a compliance system came into being in 1993 as a means of demonstrating that a product complies with the essential requirements of the European safety legislation as applied via the relevant product standards.
No doubt you will have seen CE marks on everything from beer glasses to children’s toys but the same system is also used to embed safety into industrial machinery. Without a CE mark no product can be legally imported into or sold within Europe. As a result, for more than 30 years the UK has been part of a system seen as being synonymous with the European Union or European Community.
As you probably know, the UK has voted to leave the European Community, leading to a process which has become known as Brexit. In the period up to March 2019, when Brexit is due to reach its conclusion, decisions will need to be made on how the UK will manage product safety “post-Brexit”.
This has not surprisingly generated a stream of speculation.
- Will the UK try to remain part of the CE marking system?
- Should they look to set up their own compliance system, which most regions of the world have in place in one form or another?
If the UK leaves the CE marking system this may complicate the process of trading with countries inside the EU, but on the other hand it could offer the opportunity to move away from some of the regulations for trading within the UK. What it seems many people don’t realise is that the French words which create the initials CE are not “Communauté Européene” but “Conformité Européene”, so the “C” stands for conformity and not community. There are already 3 countries within the CE marking system who are not members of the European Community – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. They are, however, members of the EEA (the European Economic Area), which gives them access to the “single market”. Other countries such as Switzerland and Turkey are choosing to adopt CE marking systems for some types of product.
So, if the UK stays within the single market will they be forced to remain part of the CE marking system? Is it likely they will stay in the single market? If they don’t, will they choose to stay as part of the CE marking system?
Whilst there is no clear answer to these questions at present, some clues have started to emerge. In a Government White Paper (Cm 9417) issued in February 2017 it stated that the BSI (British Standards Institution) will retain its membership of the relevant safety organisations after Brexit and the UK will expect to “continue to play a leading role in driving the development of global standards”.
A further insight was provided by comments suggesting that the UK government has more than enough to deal with in terms of the essential aspects of Brexit without also taking on the deregulation of a product safety system which is already “proven in use”.
None of us have a crystal ball, so we will have to wait for events to unfold. One thing we know for sure is that until March 2019 nothing changes and all the current regulations remain in place.
What is your take on the matter? What do you think will/should happen? If you design, export or sell products are you clear of your obligations around CE marking?