What will Brexit mean for the fire industry?
British fire safety firms need to take ‘plan b action’ and start preparing for what Brexit could mean when it comes to selling products in Europe, according to one expert.
Speaking at Firex International recently, Apollo’s Head of System Integration and Technical Support, Paul Pope, said companies should be prepared to do “business as usual” and ensure supply chains are maintained.
“You cannot be prepared for Brexit if you secretly believe it won’t happen,” he told delegates.
Mr Pope was speaking about what Brexit will mean for the British fire safety industry, which is currently due to take place on 31 October, although circumstances may change.
He started by giving an introduction to the current EU guidance around construction products regulation (CPR) and how Brexit could affect manufacturers in the UK and abroad.
He said EU CPR was first introduced in 1989 under the Construction Products Directive.
It was then replaced by a higher compulsory marking standard, in particular for fire protection products in 2011, which places obligations on manufacturers, distributors and importers of construction products.
“Everybody has a duty of responsibility in the chain. One non-compliance means the entire chain fails,” Mr Pope told the event. “They are legal implications, and, in some cases, there are prison sentences.”
The CPR regulations require products to be CE marked before they can be sold or resold anywhere in the EU.
All certifications are issued by notified bodies, which are independent, non-governmental third parties recognised by the EU or EEA.
A notified body is authorised to conduct assessments for products that meet the requirements of harmonised EU standards, or in the absence of normalised, a European technical assessment, said Mr Pope.
He added there are currently 189 EU notified bodies based in the UK, which employ 4,500 people.
Mr Pope said in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal for UK-based EU notified bodies to remain in that role, products that meet existing EU requirements can continue to be placed on the UK market for a limited period.
“The Government has already stated there will be a new UK CE mark, but we don’t know the details,” he explained.
He added products that meet the requirements of a UK conformity mark can be placed on the UK market, as long as a third-party testing has been carried by a UK notified body.
And that UK-based EU notified bodies will automatically become UK approved bodies and will be listed on a new database.
But products which were tested by a UK notified body will need to be retested or re-certified by an EU notified body before being sold on the continent.
“Essentially on the day of Brexit, with a no-CPR deal, the certification will become invalid,” said Mr Pope.
But he added that a lot of UK-notified bodies have got, or will set up operations within Europe, where they can re-apply for a new or already use their existing EU notified body number within another country, so it will be possible to have products re-numbered and re-labelled, so you can continue to use those products in Europe.
He added that the government is concerned about supply chains for hospitals and anywhere where there are fire detection systems.
“Their advice to them is to accept what is already out there. I think they have made a good decision on that basis,” he said.
“We cannot assume that Brexit negotiations will allow access for UK-based notified bodies to continue in Europe, or other mutually-recognised bodies to provide assessments as required by EU legislation,” he added.
“We must prepare in the absence of any transitional agreements, so products continue to be placed on the EU market. We’ve been telling people to take plan b action, now.”
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