The aftermath of the Brexit referendum led to a series of significant decisions regarding the UK’s relationship with the European Union. Among these was the potential divergence of British product standards from EU product standards, resulting in the development of a UK-specific certification mark, the UKCA mark, to replace the familiar CE mark. While this shift raised concerns about increased costs for businesses, recent developments suggest varying implications for different sectors, including woodstove and flue pipe manufacturers.
A Complex Transition
The Brexit referendum primarily focused on the UK’s EU membership and did not explicitly address its single market status. Nevertheless, then-Prime Minister Theresa May’s subsequent decision to depart from the single market set the stage for potential divergence in product standards. The CE mark, which previously signified compliance with EU regulations, was to be replaced by the UKCA mark, indicating conformity with UK product standards.
Challenges and Resistance
The prospect of introducing a new certification mark was met with resistance from a majority of UK companies. Concerns centred around the additional financial burdens this transition would impose. Consequently, the introduction of the UKCA mark faced multiple delays.
Yet, on August 1, 2023, during a period when many were on holiday, the UK government announced that goods bearing the CE mark would remain acceptable for the UK market indefinitely. Nonetheless, certain exceptions, such as construction products, including woodstoves and flue pipes, were excluded from this extension. Starting from July 1, 2025, construction products sold in England, Wales, and Scotland (excluding Northern Ireland) must bear the UKCA mark.
Reasons for Divergence
The precise motivations behind the UK government’s insistence on the UKCA mark for construction products, when the CE mark suffices for most other goods, remain unclear. However, this move implies an anticipation of regulatory divergence in the construction sector between the UK and the EU. Such divergence could manifest through the introduction of new UK regulations or, more likely, by failing to replicate new regulations introduced in the EU’s single market.
While the divergence of regulations raises questions, it also offers potential benefits. One optimistic scenario involves the UK adopting stricter emissions standards for new woodstoves, a move challenging under current EU regulations due to the mandatory permanent bypass of catalytic converters. Additionally, the UK could revisit and modernize the existing 30-year-old rules governing woodstoves for use in smoke control areas, potentially setting a higher “gold standard” for areas grappling with air quality issues.
The path of UK woodstove regulations post-Brexit appears to be diverging from the EU’s trajectory. While the implications remain uncertain, the situation opens up opportunities for the UK to set its own standards in a manner that aligns with its environmental and regulatory priorities, potentially shaping a unique approach to woodstove emissions and air quality management.