14 Feb 2022
by Lewis Walmesley-Browne

Unilateral recognition of Europe’s CE Mark would benefit British businesses and consumers - IEA report finds

Avoiding unnecessary regulatory divergence could save consumers money.

Throughout the Brexit process techUK’s Product Technical Policy & Standards committee has been emphasising to government that regulatory divergence from the European Union creates unnecessary costs and administrative burdens for businesses and ultimately makes goods placed on the UK market more expensive for consumers. 

A new report from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) Changing the rules: A unilateral approach to non-tariff barriers calls on the UK Government to reduce costs and increase choice for British consumers by recognising EU product regulations and conformity assessments, where these are in the interests of UK consumers and businesses. The report does not call for formal alignment with EU standards, but simply to apply these where it makes sense, with benefits for consumer choice and cutting down on double compliance. 

techUK believes that enabling businesses to continue to use the EU’s CE Mark as a path to compliance for goods on the UK market is a proactive and pragmatic measure that prioritises consumers, would help to address cost of living concerns, and would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to free and open trade.

We are encouraged to see that the new Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities has welcomed the report and committed to removing non-tariff barriers wherever possible. 

Please see below a consolidated summary of the report and its recommendations.

Context to the report:

  • As the UK left the EU Single Market there ceased to be automatic recognition of regulations for goods and services between the UK and EU.

  • The UK has established a new national register of accredited British CABs and a UK accreditation mark: UKCA

  • Recognising the difficulties that regulatory divergence creates for companies placing goods on the UK market, the UK has been operating a transitional arrangement under which EU conformity assessment and the CE mark are recognised for goods on the market in Great Britain - this is due to expire Jan 2023 where use of the UKCA mark would become mandatory.

  • This would mean that companies who place products in the EU and GB markets would need to mark their goods separately for the GB market and potentially need to use different certification accreditation bodies.

Rationale for the recommendations:
  • Regulatory divergence is a barrier to international trade that can increase costs to consumers or prevent products from coming to market

  • Non-tariff barriers between the UK and EU could have an impact equivalent to a 20% tariff on some goods, the effect of which is to raise prices and stifle innovation.

  • The UK has left the EU but still has “substantive compatibility with EU rules across the board”

  • Unilaterally recognising EU regulations and conformity assessment would reduce burdens on UK businesses and reduce costs for consumers.

  • The UK could still roll out its own UKCA marking, and a free market would decide through regulatory competition which assessment mark and underlying regulations are preferred. This could inform future improvements in regulation.

  • The UK would retain the autonomy to withdraw recognition of EU standards in the future if EU standards didn’t “meet the expected levels of safety or if there have been problems with monitoring and enforcement”

Companies interested in these issues are invited to get in touch with our Head of Programme: Market Acess & Consumer Tech Lewis Walmesley-Browne at [email protected] .

 

Authors

Lewis Walmesley-Browne

Head of Programme: Market Access and Consumer Tech, techUK