As the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looms large, there is a very real threat to the continued harmonious operation of the UK’s glass industry, and its interaction with Europe. Speaking in January, the Glass and Glazing Federation highlighted some of the major concerns on the horizon.

The current free circulation of goods between the UK and EU will completely cease in a no-deal scenario and trade will be governed by WTO rules. Under this regime, GGF members who source materials or products from EU countries could be classed as importers and could be liable for extra costs responsibilities such as additional VAT and import duties. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), EU exports to Britain could face a trade-weighted average tariff of around 5.7% the day after a no-deal Brexit. Goods going the other way would face tariffs of 4.3%.

In the case of a no-deal outcome, free movement from the EU’s 27 countries into the UK would end. However it is very likely that even in the event of no Agreement, the UK authorities will continue to roll out their scheme to issue residence documents to EU citizens already in the UK. The UK would need to have new immigration arrangements in place to allow EU migrants to enter the country. In this situation, intra-company transfers across EU borders would be governed by the rules of each individual member state.

The glass and glazing sector currently rely on skilled overseas workers to fill the widening generational and skills gap, particularly in the case of installations. Most of these skilled workers come from within the EU, usually Eastern European countries. Eastern European migrant workers are hugely important for filling non-qualified support and semi-skilled roles (such as labourers) across the sector.

Due to the uncertain political and economic environment, these migrant workers are increasingly choosing to return home, exacerbating the existing skills shortage. This could have a negative impact on the domestic homes market, making it harder for ordinary consumers to find competent installers for new and replacement windows. The shortage could also impact the Government’s ambition to build one million more homes to help resolve the housing crisis. 

On the positive side, the UK Government is in the process of introducing its own version of CPR (via statutory instrument) if a no-deal situation arises. This is expected to have the same requirements as the existing EU standards and will ensure:

  • Construction products already on the market can continue to circulate in the UK
  • Existing European harmonised standards will become UK ‘designated standards’ – meaning that immediately after Brexit day, both the UK and EU standards will be the same. Going forward, new UK standards will be decided by the Secretary of State
  • If a UK body has undertaken the third-party conformity assessment processes, as required by the UK ‘designated standard’, the manufacturer must add a new UK mark. Construction products which meet the harmonised European standard and have a ‘CE’ mark can continue to be sold in the UK without requiring re-testing or additional marking
  • During the time-limited period, where the product marking is added based on self-declaration, the manufacturer will be able to choose to use either the UK or CE mark (or both)
  • For products not fully covered by a designated standard, there will be an optional route available to enable products to be UK marked
  • GGF manufacturing members should note that new products which are assessed by a UK-based notified body will need to also be assessed by an EU-based body for them to be sold in the EU market.

As the clock ticks down, the fear grows and the insecurity continues….dare I say….Happy Reading?!

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