From the CEO's desk - February 2020

12 February 2020

Brexit has happened, so Alan Murray looks at what this means for the safety industry and asks what happens now.

The General Election of Thursday December the 12th 2019, saw the Conservative Party returned to power with a significant majority. After basing their campaign on “getting Brexit done” and with the withdrawal legislation cleared, the UK left the EU at 11pm on the 31st of January. 

So what happens now in the PPE and Safety Industry? Since the early nineties the industry and the conformity assessment of personal protective equipment has been subject to EU legislation and based upon the framework of CE marking and it’s approvals processes. Will that all now change?

The answer in the immediate term is no! Below is the official communication from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), released on February 5th 2020.

Communication from BEIS

As you will be aware, the UK left the EU on 31st January.

We are now in a transition period until 31st December 2020. 

During the transition period, the requirements for placing CE marked goods on the UK and EU markets will remain the same as now. This includes the arrangements for conformity assessment, marking and labelling. If you currently use a UK Notified Body, you can continue to do so during this period.

The UKCA marking, which is intended to indicate compliance with UK rules in the same way the CE marking does for EU rules, will not come into effect during the implementation period. The CE marking will continue to be required, however businesses can still place the UKCA marking on their products as long as the CE marking is also used.

For further information on using the CE marking, please refer to the following guidance:

We will communicate the arrangements at the end of the transition period as soon as further information is available, including on the outcome of negotiations with the EU and what that means for the actions you’ll need to take.

Therefore as can be seen from the communication CE marking of PPE is still required to place goods on the UK market. The communication above from BEIS also states that UKCA (United Kingdom Conformity Assessment) marking can also be used alongside CE marking. We believe that this is somewhat misleading in that there are currently no bodies approved to provide UKCA marking. Therefore it is safe for us all to work on the assumption that until the end of December 2020 CE marking of PPE will be the requirement.

Previously UK representatives from the industry played a major part in EN PPE standards management and development but the EU Commission has now made it very clear that UK bodies and UK representatives are not to attend any meetings (whether physical /phone /web) unless their participation is necessary from an EU standpoint. This is a very clear example of the UK’s ability to influence PPE standards being removed.

What will happen at the conclusion of the transition period? That will of course depend on what happens during the discussions on our future trading relationship with the EU. It is difficult to interpret signals or mood music and work out what positions, are negotiating points, and what are genuinely desired routes forward. What is clear is that under Teresa May’s proposals the default positions reflected a desire for regulatory alignment and a light touch on border checks for goods, under Boris Johnson this position has changed.

Without a Free Trade Agreement with the EU after December 2020 our position on import tariffs will change and the UK government through the Department of International Trade (DIT) has launched a consultation seeking views on the creation of a bespoke UK tariff position. Currently the UK accepts the same level of tariffs as the EU, again this is likely to change with the UK consulting around 3 specific questions.

  1. Simplifying and tailoring UK tariffs
    Removing completely tariffs below 2.5% 

  2. Removing tariffs on key inputs to production
    While this may be helpful to OEMs importing components it would be potentially damaging to UK manufacturers of such

  3. Removing tariffs where the UK has low or zero domestic production

Some tariffs that currently exist are inherited from the EU which exist to protect producers elsewhere in Europe

Personal Protective Equipment production is biased to the far east, so the changes in the tariffs regime will definitely have an impact. The current HMRC list of commodity codes does not make the art of understanding PPE tariffs easy and would benefit from further description rather than material types, but I suggest that will be a longer term exercise.

In summary it will be business as usual within the transition period but we must be prepared for eventual changes, the difficulty being that we do not know yet what the changes entail.

The BSIF are fully committed to passing on the pertinent information as soon as it becomes available. Additionally we are planning a range of roadshows to keep members informed of the changes and their impacts.

Alan Murray is chief executive of BSIF. For more information, visit