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The CE mark is placed on a wide range of products to show they are compliant with EU regulatory requirements, including toys, electrical equipment, and machinery. In most cases, the CE mark can be applied to products tested by the manufacturer. However, for some products, there is a legal requirement for the product to be assessed by a third-party assessment body (a “notified body”) to confirm they meet relevant regulatory requirements. A separate Library briefing paper, “Brexit: product standards and safety markings” (CBP583) provides background information on the EU product safety regime.  

Having left the EU, and with the transition period about to end, the UK Government has continued to push forward with plans to revise the product marking regime and implement a new, post-Brexit mark for products sold in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). This new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark can be used from 1 January 2021. To allow businesses time to adjust to the new requirements there are transitional measures, but from 1 January 2022 only products with UKCA marking will be accepted in Great Britain. The UKCA mark will cover most goods which currently require CE marking, but to be eligible to use the new mark the business must use a UK-based notified body. Importantly, businesses only using the UKCA mark will not be able to sell in Northern Ireland or the EU.

From 1 January 2021, when the Northern Ireland Protocol comes into force, Northern Ireland businesses will have “unfettered access” to the whole of the UK market as well as the guaranteed ability to trade freely within the EU Single Market. This arrangement reflects the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Consequently, a separate marking regime will exist for Northern Ireland, with products requiring CE marking or a new UKNI mark. Three important points should be noted. First, the UKNI mark cannot be placed on products unless there is a specific legislative requirement to do so. Second, the UKNI marking must accompany another conformity marking; it never appears on a product alone. Finally, a business can only use a UKNI mark if their product has undergone mandatory third-party conformity assessment by a body based in the UK.

Therefore, a UK manufacturer may need to use different markings when selling to different markets. A summary of the position from 1 January 2021 is outlined below.

UKCA mark (only):

  • The business can sell in the UK.
  • However, the business cannot sell in Northern Ireland and cannot sell in the EU.
  • To use a UKCA mark, the business must use a UK-based notified body.

UKNI mark

  • The business can sell in Great Britain.
  • The business can sell in Northern Ireland but only if coupled with the CE mark.
  • However, the business cannot sell in the EU.
  • To use a UKNI mark, the business must use a UK-based notified body.

CE mark (only):

  • A business can still sell in Great Britain until 31 December 2021, provided it meets the criteria (see below) and EU and UK requirements for the product remain the same.
  • The business can sell in Northern Ireland.
  • The business can also sell in the EU.
  • To use a CE Mark, the business must use an EU-based notified body.

Amidst calls for greater clarity, on 1 September 2020 the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) issued guidance on Using the UKCA mark from 1 January 2021. This guidance covers the use of conformity assessment markings, notified bodies, the appointment of authorised representatives and the responsibility of distributors. It explains what businesses will need to do in order to get ready for the change of regime. On 30 October 2020, BEIS published separate guidance on “Using the UKNI Marking from 1 January 2021”.

Agreement may be reached on an UK-EU trade agreement in the few remaining weeks of the transition period and, if so, the terms of that agreement may impact on product conformity assessments on imports and exports. For example, a trade agreement might include a comprehensive system of mutual recognition of product standards and conformity marks. However, the Government has indicated that it would be sensible for UK manufacturers to work on the assumption that there will be no change to the new regulatory regime outlined in the most recent guidance and that this will apply from 1 January 2021.

This Commons briefing paper provides information on the use of the new UKCA and UKNI marks, the role of notified bodies, and the responsibilities of economic operators (i.e. manufacturer, importer and distributor).

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