November 10, 2020 by Andrew Johnson - 5 Minute Read
The withdrawal of the UK from the European Union or "Brexit" has been a turbulent journey for both sides, concluding on December 31, 2020, with the end of the "transition period" during which negotiations have taken place on new mutual trading arrangements. One of the consequences of Brexit is that the familiar "CE" marking for products is no longer relevant or sufficient for goods sold in the UK.
CE stands for Conformité Européenne, French for European Conformity, and is only applicable to states in the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the EU with Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway (Figure 1). The mark is not a quality or certification mark - it is an indication that a product conforms with relevant health, safety, and environmental standards set by EU legislation. It is only applied to certain products and may require "notified body" external testing or can be self-declared, depending on the product category.
On January 1, 2021, the UK becomes a separate "single market" and the intention is to use identical EU conformity legislation, at least initially, but with a unique mark, "UKCA", standing for United Kingdom Conformity Assessment. After this date, most products placed on the UK market must have the mark applied. Those under mandatory regulatory controls must be tested by a UK-approved testing body, whereas products that require UKCA marking but do not come under mandatory regulatory controls, can be self-certified by the manufacturer.
As ever, there are caveats; products requiring the marking but which are not under regulatory control can be sold with just the CE mark until January 1, 2022, to allow businesses time to adjust. However, those that are under mandatory regulatory control must be UKCA-marked immediately from January 1, 2021. Additionally, any existing stock that is fully manufactured and ready to be placed on the market before January 1, 2021, can still be sold in the UK with just the CE marking.
The UKCA mark will not be accepted by EEA states as an alternative to CE marking. Products intended for both markets must have both CE and UKCA marks; even if the product standards applied are the same in substance initially, they may diverge in the future if the EU or the UK update standards requirements separately. For UKCA marking, standards referenced will be prefixed by "BS" indicating the document adopted by the British Standards Institution (BSI), for example BS 62368-1. For CE marking, standards referenced will be the "EN" (Euronorm) versions, for example EN 62368-1.
There are special arrangements for Northern Ireland (NI) where the land border with The Republic of Ireland has been a particular sticking-point in Brexit negotiations. As a reminder, the UK is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". The independent country The Republic of Ireland remains an EU member. Great Britain or just "Britain" is a landmass - the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales (Figure 2).
A "Northern Ireland Protocol" in effect from January 1, 2021, includes the requirement for products sold there to continue to be CE marked and comply with EU regulations but also with the UK(NI) mark, equivalent to the UKCA mark in essence. Until trade agreements between the UK and EU are finalized, or abandoned, the longer-term requirements for Northern Ireland product marking are unclear.
When power supplies are part of a product covered by the UKCA marking requirements, depending on the product category, an application-specific safety standard will apply such as BS 62368-1 for audio/video, information and communication technology equipment. Other standards may also apply to the same equipment, EMC requirements for example. This is the same arrangement as is current with CE marking.
Visit the UK's webpage for information on product areas covered by the UKCA marking.
The requirements for the physical placement of the UKCA mark are similar to those of the CE mark. For the products listed above, there is a period up to December 31, 2022, during which the mark can be on a label fixed to the product, or on an accompanying document. After this date, the product itself must be marked in most cases. Construction products, medical devices, interoperability of the rail system, and transportable pressure equipment, are not included in this concession, and requirements are yet to be determined.
Record keeping to show justification for UKCA marking is similar to that for CE marking; products subject to mandatory regulatory controls must be assessed by a UK approved test house and a UK declaration of conformity prepared. Conformity "modules" are defined as representing increasing levels of design, production, and quality assurance oversight with different product categories requiring different combinations of modules in an agreed "conformity approach". A Technical Construction File is required for both "approved body" and self-certification.
UKCA marking needs to be applied by manufacturers who wish to continue sales into the UK - it was the fifth largest economy in the world in 2019 and will continue to be a major market in the future.
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