5 minute read 9 Dec 2020
Warehouse isle with household products stacked on either side

What Brexit means for product labelling, marking and compliance

Authors
Colette Withey

Commercial & Digital Law Leader, Ernst & Young LLP

Driver of exceptional client service. Commercial and pragmatic business focused advisor. Passionate about Diversity & Inclusiveness . Music lover.

Sally Jones

EY UK Trade Strategy and Brexit Leader

Trade Strategy Partner. Helping companies and governments enhance trade. Mother of three. Astronomer.

5 minute read 9 Dec 2020

Changes will be required for placing goods on the Great Britain, Northern Ireland and EU markets.

In brief 

  • Product labelling and marking requirements will change – regardless of whether a UK-EU trade deal is agreed. 
  • Some deadlines are immediate but they vary by product specification and the market goods are being placed on – Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the EU.
  • In addition to manufactured goods, specific requirements apply to food and drink products.

The end of the Brexit transition period will trigger a number of product labelling changes, regardless of the outcome of UK-EU trade deal negotiations. Companies will have to update their product labels to take into account new addresses, new conformity marks and understand whether they can continue to use various EU-related logos. With various deadline dependencies, it is vital businesses act now to understand the changes to labelling requirements and ensure they are adequately prepared to meet their compliance obligations from day one. 

The UK Government and European Commission have published technical guidance for businesses on the labelling and marking requirements for placing goods on the market in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), Northern Ireland and the EU from 1 January 2021. These labelling requirements will differ based on the type of goods and assessments required. 

What is the UK Conformity Assessed marking? 

To replace CE marking, the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking is a new UK product marking that will be used for goods placed on the market in Great Britain. It will be required for most goods currently subject to CE marking. The UKCA mark will be available for use from 1 January 2021 but, in in most cases, it will not be legally required until 1 January 2022 in order to give businesses time to adjust.

When should the UKCA be used immediately?

Most products will be permitted to continue using the CE marking until 1 January 2022. However, if all of the below applies to your product or product standards in the UK diverge from those in the EU, the UKCA marking must be used for goods you place on the market in Great Britain from 1 January 2021 (or the point of such divergence). These requirements do not apply to existing stock and products already placed on the market before 31 December 2020. Conditions for immediate UKCA use:  

  • The product will be placed on the Great Britain market.  
  • The product is subject to specific UK legislation requiring the use of UKCA marking. 
  • Conformity assessments are required to be carried out by a third party. 
  • Previous conformity assessments were carried out by a UK-body and registration has not been transferred to an EU-recognised body before 1 January 2021.  

It is also important to understand whether your goods are subject to separate requirements (e.g., chemicals, medicines) and check the UK Government guidance for continuing to place these goods on the Great Britain market. 

Requirements for the EU and Northern Ireland 

The UKCA mark will not be recognised in the EU, therefore goods placed on the EU market will continue to require CE marking. Where businesses are placing goods on both the Great Britain and EU markets, this creates a heavier obligation for businesses to comply with two separate labelling requirements.  

Businesses must also take note of the additional requirements in place when placing goods on the Northern Ireland market. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU rules will continue to apply for placing manufactured goods on the Northern Ireland market. For most manufactured goods, the CE mark will continue to be used, however certain goods may also require the new UKNI mark

EU product safety standards 

In addition to requirements around updating labels to reflect the correct conformity assessment mark, UK businesses must also consider EU product safety standards when exporting products to the EU. Many products placed on the EU market must be labelled with the name, address or identifier of a body or person established in the EU/EEA. UK businesses must determine whether this is necessary for their products, and whether they need to establish a new point of contact (or even a new entity) in the EU/EEA for this purpose. 

Watch Colette Withey discuss wider regulatory and compliance considerations

Changes for food and drink producers, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers 

Changes to food and drink labelling requirements for placing goods on the Great Britain market will not take effect until 30 September 2022. Although this allows a significant timeframe to adjust to any changes to labelling requirements, immediate action may be required for Great Britain businesses placing goods on both the EU and Northern Ireland markets from 1 January 2021. 

Under EU rules, pre-packaged food must be labelled with an EU Food Business Operator address or the EU importer address. Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, addresses in Northern Ireland will also be acceptable for this purpose. Great Britain businesses placing goods on the EU or Northern Ireland market must take steps to ensure that they have arrangements in place to comply with these rules in time for 1 January 2021. For Great Britain businesses who have not yet addressed this issue, the best path given the time constraints may be to work with the importer/distributor to determine whether they are happy to take on the additional obligations. In the long term, there may need to be some restructuring of supply chains. 

Further labelling changes for Great Britain businesses on the use of the EU emblem, EU Health and Identification marks and country of origin labels apply on goods produced in Great Britain will apply from 1 January 2021. Details can be found on gov.uk

What businesses can do to prepare

  • Establish whether your products fall under specific regulation requiring a UKCA mark in Great Britain from 1 January 2021. 
  • Investigate whether you need to register with a new conformity assessment body to use UKCA marking or to continue using CE marking.
  • Check whether your product labels will need to be amended to identify an EU established importer or authorised representative from 1 January 2021. Confirm who this will be and that they are ready to comply with new importer obligations.
  • If you cannot amend labelling or packaging, investigate your ability to ‘overlabel’/sticker in the short term.

Support EY can offer

  • Providing Brexit Hypercare to address immediate issues in the run up to and after 31 December. 
  • Evaluating sector and product/service specific regulatory changes associated with new and altered compliance regimes.
  • Quantifying the associated impact, including safety harmonisation and conformity checks, labelling, professional qualifications, importer/distributor obligations, notified bodies, and authorised representatives.
  • Assisting with identifying alternative locations in which to perform activities, and advising on compliance and governance when setting up of new entities and operations.
  • Working with you to transform business models post-Brexit.

For further information, please contact this article’s authors or your usual EY contact.

Summary

Regardless of whether an UK-EU trade deal is agreed, Brexit will result in changes to product labelling and marking across sectors. Businesses must make the most of the remaining time to understand the changing requirements, assess the impact on their business and, where possible, take action to prepare.

About this article

Authors
Colette Withey

Commercial & Digital Law Leader, Ernst & Young LLP

Driver of exceptional client service. Commercial and pragmatic business focused advisor. Passionate about Diversity & Inclusiveness . Music lover.

Sally Jones

EY UK Trade Strategy and Brexit Leader

Trade Strategy Partner. Helping companies and governments enhance trade. Mother of three. Astronomer.