Machinery Safety 101

The Brexit Vote and CE Marking: What’s it going to mean for Canadian Exporters?

Shocked and Amazed by Brexit

UK and EU Flags against a blue sky during the Brexit VoteThis morn­ing I am shocked and amazed to learn that one of the founders of the European Uni­on has chosen to leave that Uni­on. Join­ing the EEC in 1973, the UK and oth­er European coun­tries moved toward the form­a­tion of the EU, first as an eco­nom­ic treaty, and even­tu­ally as a polit­ic­al uni­on. Today, the sep­ar­a­tion begins.

What now?

Start­ing today, the UK will need to determ­ine how best to get its house in order before trig­ger­ing Art­icle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty. This is expec­ted to take at least a couple of years. In that time, there is a pos­sib­il­ity that Scot­land may hold anoth­er exit ref­er­en­dum from the UK, and may then choose to apply to join the EU. This may also hap­pen in Ire­land, fur­ther dimin­ish­ing the size of the UK. We will have to wait and see what these coun­tries will choose to do in com­ing months.

What effect does this have on Canadian and US Exporters?

If you export to the EU and you have European branch offices in the UK and oth­er European coun­tries, the exit of the UK from the EU will have little effect, oth­er than on the ques­tion of lan­guage. Unless Scot­land or Ire­land choose to leave the UK and join the EU, AND they choose to include Eng­lish as one of their offi­cial lan­guages, it’s pos­sible that Eng­lish may no longer be an offi­cial lan­guage of the European Uni­on. This could mean that instruc­tions, manu­als, oper­at­or screens, haz­ard warn­ings and oth­er text-based inform­a­tion on your products that are provided primar­ily in Eng­lish may no longer be per­mit­ted.

If you are using the ser­vices of a com­pany that provides ser­vices to “com­pile the tech­nic­al file” for your product, and that com­pany is loc­ated in the UK, you will have to find anoth­er com­pany to provide these ser­vices. This would also be true for com­pan­ies using ser­vices of com­pany act­ing as Author­ized Rep­res­ent­at­ives. Again, I recom­mend tak­ing a deep breath and wait­ing to see what Scot­land and Ire­land will do.

If a change in Author­ized Rep­res­ent­at­ive, or per­son “author­ised to com­pile” is required, this will also impact the inform­a­tion on the name­plates on your products since the Author­ized Rep­res­ent­at­ive’s or per­son-author­ised-to-com­pile’s name and con­tact coordin­ates must be on the name­plate along with the man­u­fac­turer­’s inform­a­tion. This same change will also be required on the product Declar­a­tion of Con­form­ity or Incor­por­a­tion.

What now?

Young Woman Meditating on the grassTake a deep breath. Wait.

We need to give the UK and the EU some time to determ­ine how they are going to organ­ise their divorce. This is a world chan­ging decision, and the changes will not be done without due care and atten­tion. In the mean time, we must watch and wait. Here at Com­pli­ance inSight Con­sult­ing and the Machinery Safety 101 blog, we will be watch­ing and talk­ing to our col­leagues in Europe, and we will keep you up to date as we know more.

Now, with me… breathe deeply…

4 thoughts on “The Brexit Vote and CE Marking: What’s it going to mean for Canadian Exporters?

  1. Geoff,

    Thanks for the great per­spect­ive, and of course you are cor­rect. I was think­ing of the suc­ces­sion of North­ern Ire­land from the UK, since the Repub­lic of Ire­land as an inde­pend­ant nation has long been a mem­ber of the EU. Your com­ment cer­tainly cla­ri­fies the ques­tion of Eng­lish remain­ing as a primary lan­guage for the EU.

    Han’s point regard­ing the nation­al trans­pos­i­tions of the EU Dir­ect­ives into Nation­al Laws mean that any desire to move away from CE Mark­ing of machinery, or any oth­er products covered by these reg­u­la­tions, will be a long road, as new legis­la­tion would need to be cre­ated to replace it. Join­ing EFTA and main­tain­ing the CE Mark­ing approach and mem­ber­ship in the Single Intern­al Mar­ket would make sense, but then that would not be con­sist­ent with the desire reduce the bur­eau­crat­ic influ­ence from Brus­sels.

    In any case, the Machinery Dir­ect­ive requires that man­u­fac­tur­ers loc­ated out­side the EU have a per­son “author­ized to com­pile the tech­nic­al file” loc­ated with­in the EU. Until last Fri­day, that has meant with­in the UK for North Amer­ic­an com­pan­ies, but i think this will have to move to Ire­land by neces­sity.

    Thanks again for your com­ment!

  2. One minor cor­rec­tion: The Repub­lic of Ire­land will remain in the EU; only North­ern Ire­land is part of the UK. This means that Eng­lish will con­tin­ue to be an offi­cial lan­guage of the EU after the UK leaves.

    FWIW, when I was involved in CE assess­ment, the doc­u­ment­a­tion rule was that the instruc­tions and any safety inform­a­tion had to be provided in the lan­guage in which it was ori­gin­ally writ­ten togeth­er with a trans­la­tion into one of the offi­cial lan­guages of the coun­try into which the item was sold. So (assum­ing things haven’t changed) if you write the ori­gin­al in Eng­lish, you must still provide Eng­lish docs.

    As Han wrote, the CE mark­ing legis­la­tion is firmly woven into UK law. It’s entirely pos­sible that part of the nego­ti­ations will leave the UK sub­ject to CE Mark­ing and able to apply CE marks, in which case no change will be required on non-EU com­pan­ies. Remem­ber that many who voted to leave did so because all that the UK signed up to in 1975 was a trade agree­ment and not a Fed­er­ated Europe and so the UK may well emerge as part of the EEA (like Nor­way). Per­haps the nego­ti­ations will mean that only com­pli­ance with rel­ev­ant BS or ISO stand­ards will be required (i.e. no CE mark­ing) to sell to UK. We just don’t know and in any case it will take years to unpick EU legis­la­tion even if that’s what the UK Gov­ern­ment wish to do.

  3. Han,

    Thanks for the great per­spect­ive on those key points. I sup­pose that it may be pos­sible for the UK to fol­low a path sim­il­ar to Switzer­land, main­tain­ing a place in the EEC, being a part of the Single Intern­al Mar­ket and fol­low­ing the NeW Approach Dir­ect­ives and CE Mark­ing. If they lose their pos­i­tion at the CEN, CENELEC and ETSI tables, this does­n’t elim­in­ate their influ­ence on key tech­nic­al stand­ards, as they will con­tin­ue to par­ti­cip­ate through ISO and IEC. The biggest dif­fer­ence is that they will no longer be part of the EU vot­ing block that has occa­sion­ally moved inter­na­tion­al stand­ards in Europe’s dir­ec­tion rather than the world’s, so their influ­ence may be some­what dimin­ished. Only time will tell.

  4. Doug, you cor­rectly noted that now the ball is in the court of the UK to form­ally start the pro­ced­ure for leav­ing the EU. This will not be done before Octo­ber. The pro­cess itself will include lengthy nego­ti­ations about which part of the Eco­nom­ic and Polit­ic­al Uni­on the UK will con­tin­ue to fol­low, and under what con­di­tions. At the same time, the oth­er EU Mem­ber States will have an interest in the UK leav­ing soon­er, so that the sta­bil­ity of the EU can be restored as fast as pos­sible.

    We have to remem­ber that the CE mark­ing legis­la­tion has been trans­posed into UK nation­al law. I am con­fid­ent that they will not start to change the require­ments for machinery and install­a­tions soon. It is more likely that the UK will con­tin­ue to fol­low the dir­ec­tion of the EU legis­la­tion. I also think that they will con­tin­ue to sup­port the legis­lat­ive frame­work of tech­nic­al reg­u­la­tions refer­ring to har­mon­ised stand­ards. The ques­tion is wheth­er the UK is leg­ally allowed to stay a mem­ber of the CEN and CENELEC. If so, and they stay involved in the European stand­ard­isa­tion pro­cess, it may take many years for export­ers to feel the dif­fer­ence. I don’t think that the mutu­al recog­ni­tion will be giv­en up for exist­ing legis­la­tion.

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