In a significant post-Brexit climbdown, the UK government has decided to indefinitely recognize the European Union’s (EU) product safety symbol. Originally, the plan was to introduce a new UK-only mark for goods sold in Great Britain from the end of next year.
However, the Department for Business has now confirmed that the EU symbol, known as the conformité européenne (CE) mark, will continue to be accepted on most goods. This move has been welcomed by trade body Make UK, as it provides increased certainty for manufacturers. However, the government’s handling of the issue has been criticized for creating unnecessary costs due to last-minute policy changes.
Brexit and the Proposed Changes
Since 1993, the CE mark has been used to indicate that a wide range of products meet EU legal requirements and have undergone testing. For products sold in England, Wales, and Scotland, the plan was to replace the CE mark with a new UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) symbol from December 2024. The CE mark was set to remain in Northern Ireland under separate Brexit arrangements. This approach would have forced manufacturers selling products in both Great Britain and the EU to comply with two different standards, leading to increased costs and potential divergence over time.
The government had previously defended the proposal, arguing that it would allow them to take control of goods regulation and ensure that regulations work for British businesses and consumers. However, the Department for Business has now announced that the CE mark will be recognized indefinitely in 18 areas, including toys, fireworks, lifts, radio equipment, and protective gear. This means that British firms will have the option to choose between using the new UKCA symbol or retaining the CE mark by applying to have their products certified by an accredited European body. Regulations for other areas, such as medical devices and construction equipment, will continue to be determined by other government departments.
The decision to recognize the CE mark indefinitely in certain areas has been described as a “pragmatic and common sense decision” by the manufacturers’ organization Make UK. They believe that this move will help safeguard the competitiveness of manufacturers and make the UK an attractive destination for investment. The Federation of Small Businesses also welcomes the continued recognition of CE marked products, as it allows their members to focus on growing their business both domestically and internationally.
However, industry representatives have criticized the government for its handling of the proposed changes. The frequent last-minute policy changes have created unnecessary uncertainty and cost for manufacturers. The introduction of the new system had been repeatedly delayed, with the government citing difficult economic conditions following the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as contributing factors.
The Benefits of Indefinite Recognition
By extending the recognition of the CE mark, the UK government aims to reduce burdens for businesses and create certainty. This decision takes into account the concerns raised by industry stakeholders and provides them with the flexibility to choose the most suitable certification process for their products. It also eliminates the need for manufacturers to meet two different sets of standards, which would have added significant administrative and financial burdens.
The recognition of the CE mark in key areas such as toys, fireworks, lifts, radio equipment, and protective gear ensures that British firms can continue to trade with the EU without facing additional barriers. It also aligns with the government’s goal of making the UK an attractive destination for investment by maintaining regulatory compatibility with the EU market.
The UK government’s decision to recognize the EU’s product safety symbol indefinitely represents a significant shift in its approach to post-Brexit regulations. By allowing the continued use of the CE mark in key areas, the government aims to reduce burdens and provide certainty for businesses. This move has been welcomed by industry organizations, as it safeguards the competitiveness of manufacturers and eliminates the need for dual certification processes. While there have been criticisms of the government’s handling of the proposed changes, this pragmatic and common sense decision ensures that the UK remains an attractive destination for investment and maintains regulatory compatibility with the EU market.