Collaboration has been a key feature of the sector’s response to the coronavirus crisis. And with the Brexit transition period set to expire at the end of the year, the industry has once again come together through the auspices of the Construction Leadership Council to ensure that businesses are fully appraised of the information they need ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Constituted back in August, the Brexit Working Group of the Construction Leadership Council was established with the aim of producing comprehensive guidance and information to help the construction industry get ready and be prepared to maintain business continuity at the end of the transition period.
The Group has sought to identify and disseminate the critical issues facing the sector whilst reflecting the possible outcomes of any deal, or in the event of no agreement, whilst also feeding back into Government. The work of the group was split into four distinct workstreams covering the following key areas:
Movement of People: preparing for the new immigration rules, accessing alternative labour supply and reciprocal arrangements on skills and qualifications in new trade deals.
Movement of Goods and Materials: preparing for the new customs regime, guidance on WTO rules in the event of no agreement with the EU and alternative sourcing opportunities in the rest of the world and the domestic market.
Standards and Alignment: guidance on the Construction Products Regulation, EU notified bodies, CE marking, UK designated standards, UKCA marking and the longer term prospects of (de)harmonisation and (de)alignment.
Data Adequacy: business awareness of the potential impact and mitigating actions on data flow in the event of no agreement with the EU and no decision by the European Commission on the UK’s ‘data adequacy’.
The Builders Merchants Federation has acted as co-chair of the Movement of Goods and Materials workstream along with the Construction Products Association (with the two organisations also co-chairing the CLC’s Product Availability Group, set up in the wake of COVID-19). John Newcomb, Chief Executive of the BMF, commented at the time: “The four workstream areas are critical for business continuity following the Brexit transition period, and the Movement of Goods and Materials is particularly relevant for the building materials sector.”
Since late September, the CLC Brexit Working Group has been publishing a series of business support guides to help companies manage their processes ahead of the end of the transition period. For example, the Movement of Goods and Materials Guide addresses the impact of the Government’s decision to leave the EU Customs Union and begin its own custom regime as an independent trading state, whether a deal is secured with the European Union or not.
Accordingly, as the UK institutes its own customs territory, businesses importing goods will need to make preparations to comply with the new customs rules from 1 January 2021. Broken down into nine sections, the guide covers:
- Customs Regime – Importing Goods and Materials
- Trade in Goods and Materials between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- Trade in Goods and Materials between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
- Tariffs and Tariff-Rate Quotas – The UK Global Tariff
- Standards and Alignment
- Preparedness of Border and Emergency Planning
- Shortage Materials and Stockpiling
- Useful Resources
- Further Information
John Newcomb commented: “With many businesses focused on trading through the Covid-19 pandemic they may have lost sight of the fact that the UK’s transition period with the EU ends on 31 December (but) we must all be prepared for new customs rules and other changes that come into effect from 1 January.
“While the majority of construction products used in the UK are made here, almost a quarter (24%) are imported, with nearly two thirds (61%) of these coming from EU countries — just one reason why the whole building materials supply chain should engage with this guidance.”
Other publications have already covered ‘Brexit data protection and GDPR’ and ‘Movement of People’ whilst the ‘Conformity Marking of Construction’ guide explains that, from January, there will be three different product marks that manufacturers — and others in the supply chain — may need to apply, depending on where the product is intended to be used.
As detailed in the new guide, the three marks are:
- The EU’s marking for product conformity (CE marking)
- The United Kingdom Conformity Assessed mark (UKCA mark)
- The United Kingdom Northern Ireland mark (UK(NI) mark), which is additional to the CE marking in some instances.
The guide helps businesses plan for the changes by presenting several scenarios that explains which legislation will apply to products, what marking is needed and which conformity assessment body they may need to assess a product’s compliance before placing it on the relevant market.
Peter Caplehorn, Chief Executive of the CPA and Chair of the Standards and Alignment workstream, said: “We hope the guidance is of help to clarify the situation with regard to marking of products, especially as we transition from one system to another.
“We recognise that there are several areas still to be worked on across this whole topic and some revision may be necessary in coming months. The group is also working on a number of further documents around information that supports the marks including testing, standards, certification processes, and organisations providing these or supporting manufacturers when placing products on the market.”A version of this article originally appeared in PBM’s December edition. Please click here to read the full issue online.