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…

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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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