On 1 August, the UK government announced that it would extend use of the EU’s Conformité Européene (CE) mark for certain products placed on the market in Great Britain indefinitely.
This is an abrupt change from the intended plan of phasing out use of the EU’s CE mark and replacing it with a new British version known as the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark by the end of 2024.
What are the CE and the UKCA marks?
The CE mark has been used in the European Union since 1993 to indicate that harmonised products conform to EU health, safety, and environmental protection standards. Post-Brexit, the UK government established a new British version known as the UKCA mark.
The UK government previously delayed the implementation of the UKCA mark three times, with the most recent deadline being 31 December 2024 (where any assessment procedures done in the European Union before this date permitted use of the UKCA mark until the expiry of the certificate, or until 31 December 2027, whichever was sooner). There is now no clear cut-off date for use of the CE mark, and no clear adoption date for the UKCA mark. It therefore appears that the two marks will exist simultaneously.
This latest change has effectively made the UKCA mark redundant for many products. How use of the CE mark will work in practice is not yet clear, including what will happen when the requirements and standards in Great Britain differ from the EU requirements and standards. The UKCA mark was a key element of the UK government’s plans for Great Britain’s post-Brexit product safety framework—symbolic of regaining control over product regulations post-Brexit.
What products are covered?
The extension of the CE mark applies to the below 18 regulations that fall under the Department for Business and Trade, and covers many of the goods on the market in Great Britain for which UKCA marking would have been required. This includes:
- Recreational craft and personal watercraft
- Simple pressure vessels
- Electromagnetic compatibility
- Nonautomatic weighing instruments
- Measuring instruments
- Measuring container bottles
- Equipment for potentially explosive atmospheres
- Radio equipment
- Pressure equipment
- Personal protective equipment
- Gas appliances
- Equipment for use outdoors
- Low voltage electrical equipment
Other sectors however, including construction products and medical devices, are not covered by the above and may therefore still be required to use the UKCA mark. We expect further clarity on these sectors to be released shortly.
The UKCA mark reversal is the latest abrupt change in the story of post-Brexit divergence, and follows the major U-turn on the sunset date for expiration of retained EU laws (under The Retained EU Law Bill) earlier this year.
The CE mark extension comes after years of lobbying from industry leaders who warned that use of the UKCA mark would tie manufacturers up in unnecessary red tape. Although a relief to some businesses who can now halt their plans for marking their products, this announcement will undoubtedly come as a disappointment for companies that have already invested large amounts of time and money in anticipation of the implementation deadline.
Following the government’s announcement on the indefinite extension of the CE mark for most products, on 2 August it opened a new consultation on Great Britain’s long-term approach to product safety. The consultation aims to ensure that the new product safety framework works well for consumers and business, whilst remaining ‘fit for the future’.
The new product safety consultation will be open to all stakeholders for comment from 2 August 2023 to 24 October 2023.