The UK Government has released a further batch of technical notices, providing guidance to businesses on the implications of an exit from the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement on 29 Mach 2019.
Three of these notices will be of particular interest to businesses trading goods in other EU Member States:
a) Trading under the mutual recognition principle if there’s no Brexit deal. After Brexit, non-harmonised goods (goods which are regulated by national law rather than EU-wide rules) will cease to benefit from the mutual recognition principle, which allows the sale of goods across the EU if those goods have already been legally sold in another EU country.
This means that companies selling goods such as furniture, bicycles and textiles will have to ensure those goods comply with domestic regulations in each EU Member State where they are being sold. For many companies, this is likely to add complexity and delay to the manufacturing process, as well as introduce obstacles for companies who export or import goods to or from other EU countries.
b) Trading goods regulated under the ‘New Approach’ if there’s no Brexit deal. Harmonised goods are currently regulated by EU-wide rules under the 'New Approach', which allows traders to certify compliance of their goods with international standards, for example by affixing a CE mark.
In a no-deal scenario, goods that have already been placed on the market will be able to continue to circulate in the UK, but conformity assessments by UK bodies will no longer be recognised in the EU. This means that products previously tested by a UK notified body will need to be retested and re-marked by an EU-recognised body before being placed on the EU market.
UK bodies will be granted new approved status and will be able to continue to assess products for the UK market based on requirements that will be (at least initially) identical to current EU requirements. Traders will be able to continue using the existing conformity markings for a limited time after Brexit, but will then need to affix a new UK mark of approval.
c) Appointing nominated persons to your business if there’s no Brexit deal. Under current rules, manufacturers can appoint nominated persons to act as authorised representatives and carry out tasks such as holding technical documentation about their products and ensuring compliance with health and safety standards.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK-based nominated persons will no longer be recognised under EU law and businesses will need to nominate a new EU-authorised representative if they wish that representative to carry out tasks in the EU. Nominated persons in EU countries will continue to be recognised in the UK for a limited period (except for cosmetics), but will then need to be UK-based.
As these notices indicate, a no-deal Brexit is likely to result in a number of practical issues for UK traders placing goods on the EU market. While the Government has made it clear that it is confident that a deal will eventually be struck with the EU, it is imperative that businesses prepare for a no-deal outcome and continue to monitor these technical notices for additional guidance.