The Construction Leadership Council has told minister that the transition to the post-Brexit product marking regime – which has already had to be postponed once – needs a serious re-think.
“We have identified the many complex and inter-connected issues involved in this transition,” the Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andy Mitchell says in a letter to both Michael Gove, secretary of state for “levelling up” (which includes house-building), and Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
These include a lack of product testing capacity in the UK. There is a large pan-European network of testing facilities for CE marking but, since Brexit, the UK no longer recognises any of these. Everything has to be re-tested by a UK body authorised by UKAS, the national accreditation body for the United Kingdom. And there are too many products on the market for the UK testing industry to cope with.
The transition from Conformité Européenne, or CE, marking to the new United Kingdom Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark had originally been scheduled for the end of 2021. In August this year it was put back to 1st January 2023 in recognition of the problems. [See our previous report here.]
Mr Mitchell writes: “Our main cause of concern is that for a significant range of construction products there is limited or no capacity for these tests to be carried out in line with the UK Construction Product Regulations. There must be a significant expansion of facilities with the incumbent recruiting and training of staff, who must all then receive authorisation by UKAS, before more products can be put through the new process. Unfortunately, this expansion of capacity is not happening quickly enough.
“We have been collecting tangible evidence from construction product manufacturers about the lack of testing capacity. The evidence makes clear that numerous common and essential products such as radiators, glass, passive fire protection, glues and sealants will be adversely affected by a lack of UK testing capability.
“If the current situation prevails, these products will not be available on the UK market after the January 2023 deadline. The inability to certify radiators in the UK, for instance, could delay the construction of over 150,000 homes in a single year and will also delay the switch to low carbon heating.
“The consequences are clearly damaging not only to the UK construction sector but also to the government’s ambitions around housebuilding, infrastructure, building safety and net zero in the built environment.”
It is only an issue in Great Britain. Northern Ireland will be allowed to keep using CE marked products.
The Construction Leadership Council offers several fixes to the problem, including allowing CE certified products onto the GB market for a longer transition period or allowing testing to be subcontracted overseas – offshoring UKCA certification.
“There are steps that can be taken to mitigate these risks, but action is needed now,” the letter concludes.