UK-based manufacturers and supply chains could face a fresh wave of disruption because of a failure to agree crucial safety standards with the European Union, industry leaders are warning
“Conformity assessments” which demonstrate UK-manufactured products meet EU safety standards have not been resolved following the UK’s departure from the EU and existing arrangements will expire from 1 January 2022.
It means many components required by UK manufacturers could become unavailable because they lack kitemarks proving their safety, and could prompt some EU-based businesses to stop supplying products to British firms as they would require separate approval processes, according to Make UK, the manufacturers’ body.
Make UK chief operating officer Ben Fletcher said the effect would be disastrous to trade between the UK and the EU, which has already been significantly affected by Brexit.
He said: “Conformity assessments are rapidly becoming a major blockage for companies who are now in a queue to get their products approved with the clock ticking down to the end of the year. Many more are not even aware that this change is happening so soon.
“There is also the potential for a knock-on effect of EU companies coming up against these delays and choosing to give up on supplying the UK market to avoid the hassle and cost of having their products tested twice.”
The impact of separate standards between the UK and EU would be felt across multiple sectors, according to industry bodies.
Contractors who build or refurbish commercial and domestic properties are required to install products, including white goods, that meet UK regulations, for example. Meanwhile, many aspects of motor manufacturing – including components such as airbags – depend on conformity assessments.
No new UK assessment regime has yet been established and no agreement on equivalence from 2022 has been reached with the EU, though the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to propose a solution to the impasse later this year, according to The Independent.
Industry leaders are reportedly concerned this is too late for a new regime to become operational by 2022.
The news adds to concerns over ongoing supply chain issues relating to Brexit and the Covid pandemic, with stock levels among UK businesses at their lowest level since 1983 and significant disruption to haulage and transport systems.
Federation of Small Businesses national chair Mike Cherry told Supply Management: “A lack of agreement between both sides on the mutual recognition of conformity assessment has left the small business manufacturing sector exposed just as it faces high costs and considerable global disruption in the months ahead.
“It’s never too late. We would urge both sides to reconsider and explore how to mutually recognise each other’s conformity assessment procedures, delivering a win-win for small manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers in both the UK and the EU.”