Keith Warren, chief executive of FEA, unpicks the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of the now-signed Brexit deal:
Whilst the Brexit deal has been agreed, many of the finer details have not. FEA welcomes the news that we’ve avoided the potential disaster of a ‘no deal,’ but there’s a large gap between the rhetoric and the reality. Much more guidance is required – but in the meantime, here are some initial guidelines and, where possible, advice.
Preparing, managing and submitting paperwork involves a direct cost to businesses, and one which was not previously part of the operational requirement for importers. Many EU manufacturers are passing this responsibility to the shipping agent, which inevitably has a cost implication and creates delays to shipments as checks are required at border points.
If the trade involves Northern Ireland there are a separate set of requirements and it’s vital that businesses take a special note of these. We are already aware that shipments have been prevented from entering the country.
A complex area that was not addressed in the deal and which still needs resolving is Rules of Origin (RoO). This is an area that has hit the news headlines recently. It is especially important if a product containing components from outside the EU is imported, then has further work done to it, before being exported. The complexity of managing and reporting this have not yet been resolved and is already causing problems. FEA is currently working on the issue with 15 other engineering associations.
Product brought to the UK may be subject to anti-dumping measures, as in the case for crockery from the Far East. These measures are now managed by HMRC.
2. Authorised representatives
A UK importer company needs to be registered as an authorised representative for the products it is importing. This means many UK businesses that previously let the parent EU business take care of the responsibility and traceability of the product now have to look after it themselves, often requiring the establishment of a new, UK based company. The directors will need to take responsibility for ensuring the UKCA declaration of conformity is in order and that there is a technical file for the product. They also need to make sure that directors’ indemnity insurance is up to date and included in the cover.
Understandably, many companies who previously imported products as distributors have not been willing to take this on. FEA will be championing the case for a tax credit to help companies to transition to the new requirements.
Products must have details of the authorised representative either marked on the product itself or on accompanying literature.
The UK government is giving companies a year of ‘soft landing’ to meet new requirements. However, companies should be working now to ensure compliance to UKCA and, in the case of Northern Ireland, UKNI specifications. They will also still need to comply with the CE mark to sell the product in the EU. UKCA is not recognised in the EU as a demonstration of compliance.
Self-declaration for all products is permitted, with the exception of equipment using gas, which requires mandatory third-party testing by a UK test house. Previously many imported products were tested in European test houses. If the European test house does not have a UK registered office, the products will now need to be submitted for approval by a UK test house in order to have UKCA compliance.
4. Directives and regulations
The 20+ EU directives and regulations that relate to foodservice equipment have all been adopted into UK law, and none of the requirements have changed. This is also the case for the EN harmonised standards. The requirements are now called Designated Standards and are listed on the .gov.uk website. They are also available from FEA.
The FEA position is that, in future, there should be no UK deviation from the alignment with EU directives or standards. That is the case for now. If there were deviation it would lead to complications in manufacturing. What manufacturers want is to produce a product that can be placed on the market in as many countries as possible – any deviation could undermine this.
FEA is the technical and policy representative for engaging with the EU Commission through EFCEM (the European Federation of Catering Equipment Manufacturers). FEA also has extensive contacts with all of the relevant government departments. The strength of these networks means we can have a significant influence in terms of a joined-up approach to policy making and implementation.
The long term challenge is to avoid alignment changes on either side of the Channel. If there were to be changes to standards, then the one side could see the change as giving the other a trading benefit. This in turn could lead to a tariff to rebalance any commercial advantage.
There are also areas like the SCIP database. Previously the UK was covered by the EU database, now it has to have its own version to manage substances of concern in products. It adds yet another administrative requirement.
5. Eco-design and energy labelling
For product sold in the UK, manufacturers have had to change to the UK version of the energy label for professional refrigeration and, from March 2021, for commercial refrigeration. Importers will have to change the labels locally, using the label generator (see the .gov.uk website for information).
6. Sales, service and freedom of movement
The movement of personnel who may need to come to the UK to sell or service equipment is also now subject to new rules. These need to be carefully studied.
7. Next steps
If you are unsure about what to do next, visit gov.uk/transition where you can use the checker tool to quickly identify the actions that your business needs to take. The checker tool will ask you questions and provide the information you need to be aware of. This includes new rules on importing and exporting, moving goods to and from Northern Ireland, traveling abroad for work and hiring staff form the EU. It’s a complex subject and FEA members benefit from an on-demand Q&A response service on this and all technical and policy aspects relating to foodservice equipment.
There are also a number of support mechanisms provided by the government that you can use. They include:
You can sign up to receive updates on the specific actions you need to take once you’ve used the checker tool at gov.uk/transition
Also sign up to receive the regular Business Readiness Transition Bulletin – an email newsletter providing information on major announcements and recently published guidance
BEIS webinars across a range of topics have been available on gov.uk since January 2021. They provide specific advice on how businesses can ensure they comply with the new rules.