One consequence of the UK leaving the EU that has attracted less attention than the headline-grabbing issues we are all familiar with is the issue of product certification.
Following the UK's departure, the government had planned to stop recognition of the European CE marking of products from 1st January 2022, being the date when the new UKCA marking would apply.
This week, official guidance for manufacturers of construction products was amended to extend these dates to 1st January 2023, easing fears that the planned schedule would worsen shortages of key construction materials.
The original deadline proved to be unrealistic for the construction industry in part due to a lack of capacity for testing products under the new regime. That meant that it was not possible to verify common products as UKCA-compliant before the government's deadline. The task was exacerbated by the current materials crisis.
The extension was therefore welcomed by the construction industry, allowing more time for suppliers to satisfy the requirements of the UKCA marker system.
But, despite this extension, there are still concerns about the change from CE to UKCA certification. Industry leaders advise that this extension does not solve underlying issues. There are too few approved companies or qualified people to conduct the number of certifications required, and one year may not be enough. Moreover, there are a number of practical difficulties, including the situation in Northern Ireland, which will require its own distinct system of certification. As Northern Ireland has remained in the Single Market, the CE mark is mandatory and because a UK Approved Body cannot approve goods for CE marking, manufacturers based in Northern Ireland are at a disadvantage. The Northern Ireland Protocol allows a manufacturer based in Northern Ireland to CE mark their products based on certification from a UK Approved Body, but the CE mark must be accompanied by a new logo - the 'UKNI' marking. This is one example of the challenges the UK construction industry must navigate prior to 1 January 2023.
It is welcome news that the Government has extended the deadline for introducing the UKCA marker, however, big challenges remain. We will report on any further developments as the industry continues to grapple with this challenge.