We have been recruiting high performing candidates within the Testing, Inspection and Certification sector for many years and have been watching recent developments on Brexit talks, and the reaction from UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service), with interest. UKAS recently welcomed the publication of the Government’s White Paper: The Future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union and was pleased to note that the Government‘s proposals for a free trade area and common rule book highlighted its commitment to the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies for manufactured goods. UKAS has good reason to be working closely with Government on this issue, to ensure the implications for the economy of no longer recognising UKAS as the national accreditation body both here in the UK and internationally (through EA, ILAC and IAF membership) are understood.
UKAS is the Government appointed National Accreditation Body tasked with assessing and accrediting the competence of organisations that carry out all types of measurement and evaluation activities. Key to European and international trade is trust in the safety and quality of goods and services that are bought and sold. This confidence and the ability for UK businesses to access recognised certification bodies, makes a substantial contribution to UK trade.
UKAS accredits over 3000 organisations ranging from very small test laboratories to multinational certification bodies.
Paul Stennett, Chief Executive at UKAS and CEO of its subsidiary company CPA(UK) Ltd, confirmed in a press release back in 2016, the importance of UKAS’ continuing appointment as National Accreditation Body and the need for the continuation of the mutual recognition agreements that support the acceptance of accredited certificates across Europe and the rest of the world. UKAS has been staying close to Brexit developments ever since.
A recent study showed that accreditation contributes at least £1bn pa to the UK economy.
The implications of not allowing free trade and no longer recognising UKAS as the national accreditation body could be far reaching and could mean that products and services are no longer accepted in some or all countries. If new trade agreements have to be reached as a consequence of Brexit, then the Government will need to reconsider how inspection is carried out and the competence of the organisations doing so.
UKAS supports European and International trade in the following ways:
- Certificates issued by UKAS and UKAS accredited organisations are recognised across Europe and internationally through UKAS’ membership of
- European co-operation of Accreditation (EA)
- International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC)
- International Accreditation Forum (IAF)
- The international recognition of accreditation means that goods and services do not need to be retested, inspected or certified for each new export market.
- Accreditation is referenced as the preferred way of demonstrating the competence of assessment bodies (including notified bodies) in more than 50 EU Directives and Regulations.
- Accreditation is referenced in the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement and the mutual recognition of accreditation is an important part of agreements between trading partners.
What does this mean for people working in Testing, Inspection & Certification?
There are 189 UK notified bodies, employing 4,500 people, with 20,000 customers and generating £2bn pa.
This list includes many of the clients we have worked with over several years - NQA, Certsure, SGS, Ascertiva, Intertek, FSSI Certification, BSI - and raises questions over their viability, and roles for their employees, in the future.
We spoke with one senior employee from a specialist UK based test laboratory that operates globally, who told us that the business is in talks with the Irish government to establish a site in Ireland to enable them to service the EU going forwards. For larger certification bodies, operating across numerous countries, they may have to look at transferring accreditation to European sites or sister companies in different locations.
It is still very unclear how the new business landscape will look post Brexit, and certification is one of many areas that is looking for reassurance and certainty for the future. What is clear is that UK businesses will suffer if UKAS is no longer recognised as the UK National Accreditation Body under UK law and that mutual recognition of conformity assessment must be factored into any new trade agreement between the UK and the EU.