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Brexit and UKAS accreditation

As the end of the EU transition period draws to a close, we are facing a new era for the United Kingdom including accreditation of UK conformity assessment bodies. Although, at the time of writing negotiations are ongoing and hence there remains a number of areas where confirmation is still required, the final picture is starting to take shape.

Therefore, what are we able to say, and what will be the impact of this on UKAS accreditation? The following provides an update on the key points:

  1. The UK’s National Accreditation Body: UKAS was formally appointed as the United Kingdom’s National Accreditation Body through the Accreditation Regulations 2009 (SI No 3155/2009). This appointment will continue to be the case after 2020, with revision of the SI required in order to reflect UK rather than EU legislation.
  1. UKAS Membership of the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA): The current membership criteria for EA requires accreditation bodies to be either an EU/EFTA member state or a candidate country (Full Membership). Other countries, e.g. those recognised under the EU Neighbourhood Policy, can become Affiliate Members although have no voting rights. As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, UKAS no longer meets the current criteria for full membership, but we have been granted a two year extension that allows us to remain a full member until the end of January 2022. It is expected that EA will revise its membership criteria, to enable UKAS to remain an active member: Further discussions are scheduled for the EA General Assembly in November. Our expectation is to be able to remain as a full member – this will be confirmed during 2021.
  1. Mutual Recognition of UKAS Accredited Activities: UKAS is currently a signatory of regional (EA – European cooperation for Accreditation) and international (ILAC – International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation and IAF – International Accreditation Forum) mutual recognition agreements (MLAs/MRAs). Exit from the EU will not affect our signatory status to the international agreements, and will not affect our regional status as long as we remain a member of the EA. Therefore, UKAS accreditation, together with the reports and certificates of its accredited customers, will continue to benefit from international recognition (with the exception of EU-Regulatory activities – see point 4).
  1. Recognition of UKAS accreditation across Europe The European Commission has circulated statements regarding the future validity and recognition of UKAS accreditation within the EU which have led to confusion. The oft-used text states:

The UK Accreditation Service will cease to be a national accreditation body within the meaning and for the purposes of Regulation No 765/2008 as from the end of the transition period. As a consequence, its accreditation certificates will no longer be considered as ‘accreditation’ within the meaning of Regulation No 765/2008 and no longer valid or recognised in the EU pursuant to that Regulation as of the end of the transition period.

The key to understanding this statement is the phrase ‘within the meaning of Regulation No 765/2008’ which means that this only relates to EU Regulations and EU schemes (e.g. EU Directives/CE Marking, EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EUETS), Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), etc) but does not include the voluntary area or any Regulatory requirements outside of the EU.

Therefore, in line with the EA and ILAC/IAF MLAs/MRAs (see point 3) the services, reports and certificates of UKAS accredited bodies, with the exception of EU Regulation and EU schemes, should continue to be  recognised across the EU, EFTA and the rest of the world.

  1. CE v UKCA Marking: The European Commission has clearly stated that as of the end of the transition period, UK Notified Bodies will lose their status as EU Notified Bodies and will be removed from the Commission’s information system on notified organisations (NANDO database). As such, UK bodies will not be in a position to perform conformity assessment tasks pursuant to the European Union product legislation as of the end of the transition period.

The UK is in the process of setting up its own product marking system (UKCA Mark) with requisite conformity assessment undertaken by UK Approved Bodies. The UKCA mark shall be underpinned by UKAS accreditation, and hence bodies wishing to be appointed as Approved must hold the appropriate UKAS accreditation. UKAS continues to hold discussions regarding this with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy with the expectation that UKAS accredited Notified Bodies shall be transferred to UK Approved Bodies on 1st January 2021 without the need for additional assessment. For further details refer to the news updates on the UKAS website.

Northern Ireland Protocol – Aspects of the NI Protocol are still under discussion, and UKAS remains in discussion with the UK Government to get clarity on the ramifications of this for UKAS and its accredited bodies. The Protocol does not allow for recognition of the UKCA Mark within Northern Ireland, instead the EU CE mark shall remain. There is provision for NI Notified Bodies to provide services relating to (UKNI) CE marked goods, although these will not be recognised within the EU. Confirmation of the final arrangements is awaited.