At the time of Brexit, there was an expected shift in the regulatory requirements for the UK, with the government announcing procedures to replace those used under the EU system. Naturally, it was assumed that the implementation of these replacement procedures would come with a timeframe to allow businesses and industry to adjust to the new requirements.
However, since those heady days immediately post-Brexit when a myriad of changes was announced, there has been a slow realisation that the changes are not so straightforward, with many original implementation timings having slipped.
Implementing regulatory changes is no easy exercise for any business, but stopping or delaying these changes part way through can be equally challenging. For example, UKCA marking has a requirement to test, certify and print the mark on the product and/or packaging, requiring many months of preparatory work per product to get the correct details in place. This is done in time to meet an upcoming deadline.
Since Brexit, this moved from a two-year to a three-year implementation period fairly early on, as many businesses stated that printing changes take a considerably long time to run through supply chains. However, a further extension to the implementation period was announced just two months before the extended deadline. This was confused by the fact that UKCA marking applies to so many regulations, and that only the so-called ‘new approach’ regulations were bound by the new extension. This has left many businesses and organisations in a halfway house of needing to comply by 1st January 2023 for some regulations with a delayed date for others. This has since been clarified meaning the extended extensions have been pretty much implemented across the board.
Medical Devices, which have UKCA requirements, are on a different timeline again. An announcement in October 2022, stated that the reform of the Medical Device Regulations would be extended, that CE-marked products would be accepted for another 12 months from July 2023 to July 2024, and then moved into a transitional process whereby both UKCA and CE certificates can be accepted until as late as June 2028. While many businesses were still not ready, for those that had started to act it was as if the ship had already set sail and changes were going ahead regardless. These changes may have been the impetus to cease selling into the UK due to the increased cost of certification and supply. Other companies may have had dedicated business operations associated with UKCA marking, which will have seen a significant drop in demand. Unfortunately, this impact came late in the day due to the timing of the announcement to ease the deadline.
Similarly, UK REACH started out as a ‘facsimile’ replacement of the EU chemical regulation ‘REACH’. With industry questioning the need to have the ‘same’ regulation as the EU but pay twice for both markets, the intent to adjust the UK REACH regime was announced by the government after the initial registration deadlines had been set. The subsequent deliberations of the regulatory regime for UK REACH have gone as far as extending the deadlines for registration by three years for all tonnage bands, with no indication of the actual registration requirements announced. The original and initial registration deadline for UK REACH was 27th October 2023. This has now been extended to 27th October 2026. However, with the announcement by the government in late November 2022, these dates still need to be officially amended through Parliament, aiming to be on the statute books prior to October 2023. Let’s hope for no political turmoil in the UK between now and then.
Many in industry have the desire to see better transparency and openness around regulatory changes and implementation, but this is undermined by last-minute changes to deadlines. The two examples above probably have the greater cross-sector impact, but other regulations have also seen last-minute extensions announced for their implementation. These include the cosmetics regulation; UK responsible person details on packaging delayed from 1st Jan 2023 to 2025 (announced Sept 2022). The initial timeline was to allow two years for products to work through supply chains – three months does not tie in with a two-year process.
The UK Biocidal Products Regulation had a deadline of 31st December 2022 to resubmit applications to the UK Agency where they had been previously submitted to the EU. Due to the high demand (foreseen or unforeseen), the legislation was changed in December 2022 to extend the processing and evaluation of applications to 31st December 2027.
The General Product Safety Regulation, which has a requirement to include the producer/importer address for the UK – the implementation of which is to physically include the address – has been extended by five years to the end of 2027. This was also announced just three months before the original deadline.
In all these cases, it seems to show a lack of real understanding of the complexity of these regulations and how businesses manage them. These last-minute changes do not help businesses to plan how to implement the regulations in line with regulatory changes. The mantra of ‘get Brexit done’ is a lot easier to say than actually tackling the complexities of some regulations. If only there had been more thought given to realistic time frames at the outset, maybe we wouldn’t need to be sticking to the EU systems so much for so long.
Implementing regulatory changes such as UKCA marking is no easy exercise, but stopping or delaying changes part way through can be equally challenging. One person’s thoughts on the impact of the UKCA mark delay.