The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31st January 2020 with an 11-month transition period; in 136 days’ time, yet-to-be determined new trading arrangements come into force.
No one knows whether trade between the UK and the EU will be based on some kind of free trade agreement (FTA) or default World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
The pressing concerns of UK construction machinery manufacturers have been set out by Dale Camsell, senior technical consultant to the Construction Equipment Association (CEA).
Writing in the CEA’s in-house magazine, he says there is ‘considerable concern’ about the uncertainty and lack of time left to prepare for whatever new arrangements come into force.
During the current transition period, the UK continues to recognise the EU’s declaration of conformity (the CE mark) and any certificates that had been granted by EU-based third party approval bodies. Plans for a replacement for a post-Brexit UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) certification system were published by government last year, setting out the new regime, and then ripped up again after the transition period was agreed.
Dale Camsell says that UKCA is likely to be revived next year.
He writes: “The government has recently offered informal advice and is recommending that manufacturers prepare themselves to be fully compliant with the possible new UK requirements as from 1st January 2021. The government’s new position is that it will not offer any continuity period if a hard Brexit occurs on 1st January 2021, meaning that manufacturers will only have the remainder of this year in order to prepare for the new UK requirements.
“One of those recommendations is that manufacturers should start planning to incorporate the new UKCA mark, which will replace the EU CE mark, on machines that are to be sold into Great Britain from next year. However, since manufacturers don’t currently have sight of the proposed new UK regulation, nor even a draft, there is understandable concern that manufacturers are being asked to declare that their machinery complies with a law that doesn’t currently exist.”
He continues: “Additionally, from the practical perspective, modifying a machine’s ID plate to incorporate this additional mark is more complex and trickier than it sounds and can take several months to realise. This is resulting in considerable concern that manufacturers might not be ready to UKCA mark machines in time for the 1st January 2021 implementation date.”
Getting the required third party approvals might prove a challenge too, he says.
“Under EU law, these service providers can be based anywhere in the EU. However, the UK government has advised that in order to comply with UK law after the transition period has ended, manufacturers will need to obtain these certificates from UK based approval bodies. Two challenges arise from this situation; firstly, these approvals cannot be granted until 1st January 2021, hence manufacturers are concerned as to how they can access the market if they aren’t in possession of the required certificates on 1st January 2021; secondly, since every manufacturer that sells into Great Britain will be similarly affected, regardless of where they are based, there will be an enormous demand placed on the UK approval bodies. Manufacturers therefore wonder how the approval bodies will cope with this demand on their services and deliver the necessary approvals in a timely manner.”
The reference to Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom here is deliberate. The UK government has decided that Northern Ireland should be treated differently. Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU single market and machines sold into Northern Ireland will need to comply with EU regulations rather than UK ones.