In December 2020 the EU and the UK reached an agreement in principle on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). This Agreement includes a Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Chapter which addresses regulatory barriers to trade between the UK and EU, while allowing both Parties the freedom to regulate goods in the way most appropriate for their own market. This Chapter builds on the WTO TBT agreement and includes provisions on technical regulation, conformity assessment, standardisation, accreditation, market surveillance and marking and labelling.
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Chapter, Article 6 – relevance to accreditation and conformity assessment:
Paragraph 3. Where a Party requires third party conformity assessment as a positive assurance that a product conforms with a technical regulation and it has not reserved this task to a government authority as specified in paragraph 4, it shall:
(a) use accreditation, as appropriate, as a means to demonstrate technical competence to qualify conformity assessment bodies. Without prejudice to its right to establish requirements for conformity assessment bodies, each Party recognises the valuable role that accreditation operated with authority derived from government and on a non-commercial basis can play in the qualification of conformity assessment bodies;
(b) use relevant international standards for accreditation and conformity assessment;
(c) encourage accreditation bodies and conformity assessment bodies located within its territory to join any relevant functioning international agreements or arrangements for harmonisation or facilitation of acceptance of conformity assessment results;
(d) if two or more conformity assessment bodies are authorised by a Party to carry out conformity assessment procedures required for placing a product on the market, ensure that economic operators have a choice amongst the conformity assessment bodies designated by the authorities of a Party for a particular product or set of products;
(e) ensure that conformity assessment bodies are independent of manufacturers, importers and economic operators in general and that there are no conflicts of interest between accreditation bodies and conformity assessment bodies;
(f) allow conformity assessment bodies to use subcontractors to perform testing or inspections in relation to the conformity assessment, including subcontractors located in the territory of the other Party, and may require subcontractors to meet the same requirements the conformity assessment body must meet to perform such testing or inspections itself; and
(g) publish on a single website a list of the bodies that it has designated to perform such conformity assessment and the relevant information on the scope of designation of each such body.
This paragraph reconfirms the importance of accreditation in demonstrating the technical competence of conformity assessment bodies (e.g. laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies) when provided by a non-commercial accreditation body with authority derived from government: The UK Government has confirmed that UKAS remains the United Kingdom’s national accreditation body, as laid down in The Accreditation Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/3155).
With respect to relevant functioning international agreements or arrangements, UKAS remains a full signatory to the mutual recognition agreements operated by the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA), International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF). This means that activities performed under UKAS accreditation can be accepted within the EU and globally as technically equivalent to activities accredited by other signatories to the MLAs.
Confirmation of the ability of UK and EU CABs to subcontract work to CABs in other territories is important and ensures that UKAS accredited bodies can continue to support Notified Bodies and other conformity assessment bodies operating within the EU. This shall be underpinned by the EA, ILAC & IAF MLAs.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has developed a UK Market Conformity Assessment Bodies (UKMCAB) database which replaces NANDO for UK Approved and Notified Bodies.
Accreditation of Forensic Services Providers
Part 3 of the Trade & Cooperation Agreement covers law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. This includes the following article on accreditation of forensic service providers:
Article 16: Accreditation of forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities
The States shall ensure that their forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities are accredited by a domestic accreditation body as complying with EN ISO/IEC 17025.
Each State shall ensure that the results of accredited forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities in other States are recognised by its authorities responsible for the prevention, detection, and investigation of criminal offences as being equally reliable as the results of domestic forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities accredited to EN ISO/IEC 17025.
The competent law enforcement authorities of the United Kingdom shall not carry out searches and automated comparison in accordance with Articles LAW.PRUM.8 [Automated searching of DNA profiles], LAW.PRUM.9 [Automated comparison of DNA profiles] and LAW.PRUM.12 [Automated searching of dactyloscopic data] before the United Kingdom has implemented and applied the measures referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article.
Paragraphs 1 and 2 do not affect domestic rules on the judicial assessment of evidence.
The United Kingdom shall communicate to the Specialised Committee on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation the text of the main provisions adopted to implement and apply the provisions of this Article.
Within the TCA “domestic accreditation body” is defined as “the sole body in a State that performs accreditation with authority derived from the State” – Within the UK this is UKAS, appointed via The Accreditation Regulations 2009 (S.I. 2009/3155).
UKAS is continuing to hold discussions with the UK government and European partners to fully understand the requirements within the TCA and how these shall be implemented. Further communications shall be issued as further information becomes available.