The expectation was that by now the wheels of the European system for the official approval of EN harmonised standards would be turning, and at last the end of the tunnel could be seen for the CE marking of internal doorsets to EN 14351-2 together with the fire resistance standard EN 16034 (but still doorsets, not assemblies).
Not so – another glitch in the system, just about at the last minute.
The final vote was completed as planned on prEN14351-2. And the outcome was 95% positive, apparently clearing the last hurdle for the standard to go to publication in the Official Journal (a further wait of around 6 to 9 months for the introduction period to start).
But the CEN consultant, it turns out, has decided now not to support the publication of the prEN as a harmonised standard. There are two main grounds the consultant makes for withdrawing support. First is the requirement to separate reaction to fire of components and the doorset (since reaction fire is now required to be an essential characteristic). Second is that the document is in one part transgresses the convention that standards cannot force manufacturers to make specific performance declarations, even if the property should be considered an essential characteristic.
So, the game of ping pong goes on.
Back to TC 33… another wait. And continued uncertainty about any finish date in this exceedingly long drawn out process. A reminder as well to wonder whether CE marking really is fit for purpose in terms of providing a level playing field for products, when the system allows manufacturers to pick and choose which essential characteristics they declare performance against. What does “essential” mean then in CE language? How can products, nominally for the same use, make declarations with different levels of performances, yet be covered equally under the same CE mark system of approval?
A process that started out with such grand and laudable intentions seems to have wandered deep into a swamp of doubt and uncertainty.
Meanwhile… back in the UK
The Government has introduced its bill to Parliament for the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (13 July 2017), following its White Paper in March 2017. It is a complicated document for the general reader, couched in formal language as it is. The purpose is to lay down the legal ground rules, and define Ministerial powers, to formalise the conversion of EU law into domestic law where that law has become part of the UK system of domestic law.
But not all EU law will be automatically converted and confirmed. The bill makes clear that such cases are likely to apply where the Minister considers “anything which has no practical application applied in relation to the UK or is otherwise redundant” or an item which “confers function on EU entities which no longer have function in that respect under EU law in relation to the UK.”
Clause 7 gives Ministers of the Crown power to make secondary legislation to deal with problems in retained EU law that would arise on exit from the EU and the European Economic Area (i.e. in common usage, the common single EU market): “a Minister may by regulation make provision, as considered appropriate, to remedy, mitigate, prevent deficiencies”.
A “deficiency” covers a wide range of cases where EU law would not function appropriately or sensibly in the UK after leaving the EU. Subsection (2) helps with understanding what that can mean. For example: any reciprocal arrangement which no longer exists (post-Brexit), or is no longer appropriate as a result of the UK ceasing to be party to any EU Treaties, also EU references that are no longer appropriate or have practical application.
It should be remembered…
That CE marking under the Construction Products Regulation of the EU (the CPR) springs directly from the European Treaty. It makes reference in its first words specifically to Article 114 under that Treaty, which exists to facilitate the functioning of the single market by removing obstacles to trade.
The free movement of products is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union (together with people, services, capital) – considered inviolable by Brussels.
When the UK leaves the EU – and departs the single market as seems likely according to declared Government policy – then it is reasonable to think that the CE marking of construction products is likely to be deemed one of those provisions in EU law that becomes a “deficiency”, i.e. redundant and no longer appropriate (because its continuation would imply adoption of EU single market requirements).
Of course, precise conclusions will only arise as the process of Brexit, and subsequent adjustment, progressively unfolds. And manufacturers need to make their own assessments, based on their own interpretations of events and consequences.
UK Building Regulations continue without the necessity of CE marking. And the established principles of product third party certification still stand for the assurance of levels and consistency of performance of products on the UK market, together with the responsibility of manufacturers under general product law.