Notified Bodies – post Brexit
The UK structure for CE marking and product certification operates within an EU-wide system, and the output from organisations that issue certificates is accepted throughout the EU, and wider. What will happen to these organisations when we are no longer in the EU?
Currently, in line with the PPE Directive and the European New Legislative Framework, an organisation established in the UK to issue product certification is assessed by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), who propose it to the Government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). BEIS in turn notify the European Commission and, if no other member states raise an objection, it becomes a ‘Notified Body’, authorised to award the CE mark and issue certificates to EN standards.
There are currently twelve Notified Bodies in the UK scoped for PPE. They attract work from far and wide, within Europe and outside it, because of their professionalism, in depth skills and knowledge of the processes, and ease of communication. They are particularly active because of the industry in which they operate, and taking in other industries BEIS estimate the total of Notified Bodies in the UK employ c.4,500 staff and contribute £2bn to the UK economy.
Once we are no longer in the EU this system will cease to operate, and while existing certificates will continue to be valid until they expire, UK Notified Bodies will not be able to award new CE marks for products to be sold in Europe. There is real potential that a large proportion of the jobs and turnover they provide will be lost to the UK.
BSIF has been lobbying MP’s, BEIS and the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) for a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) to be in place on the day we leave. Such an agreement would allow the ‘notification’ process via UKAS and BEIS to be maintained, and certification work carried out by Notified Bodies based in the UK to continue to be valid for products to be sold throughout the EU.
MRA’s already exist with countries outside the EU such as Canada and Switzerland. They allow two countries to recognise each other’s conformity assessments of testing and certification. Structure of a MRA between the UK and the EU would be unique however as those currently in place are with countries who have never been in the EU, while this would be with a country who has operated the system fully, and is now stepping outside of it.
At this stage BSIF’s major concerns are firstly that the threat to Notified Bodies and the potential loss to the economy is acknowledged by UK Government, and secondly that as negotiations proceed this issue is ‘on the table’, seeking a MRA as part of the exit deal, and we will continue to lobby for this.