There is no question that despite the lengthy negotiations between the UK and the EU prior to the signing of the Brexit Agreement at the eleventh hour, many elements of future trading were not put in place. This is certainly true for the Construction Industry when it comes to compliance with the Construction Products Regulations (CPR) which had been a legal requirement in the UK since the 1st of July 2013.
The EU Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 was originally intended to remove technical barriers to the trade of construction products in the European single market. It placed obligations on manufacturers, distributors and importers of construction products to ensure that product covered by a harmonised European Standard (hEN). The CPR requires all construction products within the scope of a hEN, must have a Declaration of Performance created by the economic operator and the product must be CE marked.
The UK Government’s intention to continue with CPR was confirmed with the introduction of Statutory Instrument No. 465 in 2019 followed by Statutory Instrument No. 1359 in 2020.
It is clear in the first few months of 2021, that the original intent of CPR to allow free movement of compliant product throughout the EU is now working against that principle and has created a barrier for free movement of product. Here are some areas of concern for our members.
UK Testing Centres cannot certify products for the EU market
The EU will not accept test reports, either new or existing, issued by UK testing bodies. This is contradicted by the EU stating that acceptance of test reports has to be made by the individual organisation.
This requires to be clarified by Government.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, UK Approved Bodies can act as UK Notified Bodies to enable CE marking for products destined for Northern Ireland.
This anomaly needs to be rectified.
If a product is being placed on the European market, it will require the use of an EU Notified Body to enable affixing of the CE mark.
It is also important to note that from the 1st January 2022 the UK will cease to recognise CE marking in Great Britain and EU products will also have to switch to UKCA marking. It is yet to be established if EU test reports will be accepted in support of UKCA marking.
A duplication of testing and conformity assessment if product is placed on both the UK and EU market including the Republic of ireland.
The issue with AVCP3s
The use of AVCP3 requires an Initial Type Test (ITT) to be issued by a Notified Test Laboratory, after which a manufacturer can self-certify. This historic data would have been sourced from a Notified Body either in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. The change from EU Notified Body to UK Authorised Body should have no effect on its validity.
UK test reports are no longer recognised by the EU (as at 1st January 2021). This unilaterally invalidates all existing AVCP3 testing carried out in the UK. For the EU market these tests must be repeated or redone at an EU27 Notified Body in order to affix the CE mark (unless for the Northern Ireland market, see above)
Duplication of testing to hEN and newly assigned UK Designated Standards when they are exactly the same is completely unnecessary and would incur needless costs to the UK manufacturer. The UK have agreed to accept CE marked product from the EU until 31st December 2021 which is not reciprocated creating an unlevel playing field until that time.UK test houses cannot carry out all relevant tests for our industry and have historically been undertaken by EU laboratories
If there is no UK Approved Body able to carry out specific testing previously carried out by EU test houses and the Updated Memorandum of Understanding between Government and UKAS states that only UK Approved Bodies have to be used to enable manufacturers to affix UKCA marking. For those products that can be tested by UK Authorised Bodies, the additional workload from the EU may cause substantial delay in receiving results due to the limited capacity of the testing houses.
With no UK facility to carry out some of these tests and possible capacity issue, how can this work?
There are other issues relating to the operational side of Conformity Marking but I have chosen to focus on the practical side in this article. Members can be assured that the GGF is in regular and frequent discussion with Government in regard to dealing with these problems and how we are able to assist. We are also working closely with other associations through the Construction Products Authority (the CPA) as almost all other sectors of the Construction Industry face the same problems. Our colleagues in Europe are also campaigning with the European Parliament as this situation will also affect them in the same manner after the end of 2021.
At the time of writing we are aware that the MHCLG and UKAS are hoping to provide at least a temporary measure to resolve these issues very soon. However, the ideal solution would be in the form of a Mutual Recognition Agreement covering product testing by EU Notified Bodies and UK Approved Bodies.
A subsequent article on the Northern Ireland Protocol and Conformity Marking will be published in a future edition of Members First.
The GGF will keep members informed on any changes to this situation. Members wishing more information should contact the Technical Department at firstname.lastname@example.org