On 22 January 2018, the European Commission published a notice to stakeholders on the impact of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU related to the field of industrial products.
In view of the considerable uncertainties concerning which rules may or may not remain in place in the UK after its withdrawal from the EU, the European Commission has issued this notice to encourage companies to be aware of the regulatory risks related to industrial products, i.e. non-food and non-agricultural products, which are used by consumers or by professionals.
Specifically, the notice warns businesses to be aware and to consider taking action to prevent the following consequences for products placed on the EU-27 market after the withdrawal date (29 March 2019):
- Distributor versus importer: Under EU legislation, an "importer" is an economic operator which is established within the EU and which places a product from a third country onto the Union market. After the withdrawal date, the UK will no longer be a part of the Union, and thus any economic operator therein will no longer be an EU importer but will be part of a third country. Therefore, an economic operator established within the EU-27 who is now an EU "distributor" may become an "importer" if placing goods on the market which come from the UK (after the date of withdrawal). Thus, these entities will have to begin complying with the special rules related to importers.
- Authorized representatives: Manufacturers are advised to evaluate whether any authorized representatives are established in the UK and to evaluate if any changes should be made in light of the pending UK withdrawal.
- Notified Bodies: There may also be impacts on the qualified third parties known as Notified Bodies related to the performance of conformity assessments. Businesses must recognize that UK-based Notified Bodies will lose their status as EU Notified Bodies on the date of withdrawal. Thus, UK bodies will no longer be authorized to perform duties related to conformity assessments related to EU product legislation.
Businesses may need to evaluate whether their legal obligations will change as a result of the UK withdrawal. For example, some EU distributors may become importers (if importing products from the UK) and thus will have to comply with the specific obligations relevant to an importer.
For goods placed on the EU market before the withdrawal date, the EU is working with the UK towards agreements that will allow these products to remain compliant on the market. However, this is not yet finalized.
The Commission has issued other similar notices, for example related to the Biocidal Products Regulation. Companies would be wise to evaluate the impact of the UK withdrawal on their organization and supply chain, and to take action to ensure the continuity of their business practices.