Now the UK has left the EU, the transition period has ended and the two parties have established a new trading relationship, UK-based vehicle manufacturers have some clarity over what they need to do to serve three key markets: Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), the EU and Northern Ireland
It may seem strange that UK-based manufacturers might have to change what they do to serve the home market. The reason is that, up to the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, manufacturers were still following EU rules. Now, however, the UK has left the EU and is setting its own rules.
For the time being, homologation in the EU and UK is effectively the same thanks to identical technical requirements. Whether the requirements change over time and the two homologation regimes start to drift apart, we will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA) is being replaced in the UK by UKTA (UK Type Approval). Currently the VCA says approvals from authorities in the EU 27 will be recognised for non-registered vehicles like O1 and O2 trailers until 1 January 2022, after which UKTA approval will be necessary.
From 1 January 2021 the VCA is issuing provisional GB type approvals for vehicles that currently have valid EU type approvals and that require registration; these provisional approvals will be valid for a maximum of two years. Comprehensive type approvals are expected to replace provisional type approvals in Spring 2021.
GB manufacturers that have e11 approvals that were issued in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 need not take any action yet. Provided those e11 approvals were valid on 31 December 2020, they will continue to be accepted under UK law. Vehicles must continue to be provided with their original EU type approval certificates and be fitted with the original EU statutory plate.
For GB manufacturers bringing new vehicle types to the GB market, the VCA will issue provisional GB approvals until such time that comprehensive approvals are being issued. Once a comprehensive approvals system is operating, it is expected that provisional approvals can be converted to comprehensive approvals.
Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom but is covered by the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed prior to the conclusion of the trade talks. Two key aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol are that there is borderless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (and, therefore, all EU 27 countries) for most manufactured goods, and manufacturers in Northern Ireland retain unfettered access to the market in Great Britain. Because of the need for frictionless trade within the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland is continuing to align with many aspects of EU legislation.
Manufacturers in Northern Ireland with valid European Whole Vehicle Type Approval (EWVTA) can therefore continue to place these vehicles on the market in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, because of the unfettered access rules, Northern Irish manufacturers with European type approvals can place their vehicles on the market in Great Britain as well. But to export to EU member states in mainland Europe, manufacturers in Northern Ireland will need Type Approval from one of the EU 27 member states.
In Great Britain, the VCA is no longer issuing e11 approvals because it has ceased to be an EU authority. However, GB manufacturers wishing to place new vehicle types on the market in Northern Ireland, and who wish to use UK type approval processes, can apply to the VCA for UKNI approval. This UKNI approval will be issued in compliance with EU regulations.
GB manufacturers that already have e11 European Type Approval can continue to place their vehicles on the market in Northern Ireland after 1 January 2021 because the e11 approval is deemed to be a UKNI approval.
Similarly, any NSSTA (National Small Series Type Approval) issued by the VCA prior to 1 January 2021 is also deemed to be a UKNI approval.
Manufacturers in Northern Ireland who hold UK NSSTA or EC Small Series Type Approval (ECSSTA) can continue to supply to the GB market due to the unfettered access rules. However, manufacturers in Northern Ireland will require approval from an EU 27 member state in order to supply vehicles south of the Irish border or, indeed, elsewhere in the EU.
UK manufacturers exporting to the EU 27
Automotive homologation is mandatory for all classes of vehicle for use in EU 27 member states. This includes passenger and goods vehicles, ranging from small garden waste trailers to articulated trucks and trailers. Furthermore, the directives and regulations are very broad in scope and number over a dozen, so most manufacturers need to comply with – and have appropriate documentation in place for – multiple sets of legislative requirements.
The trade deal signed by the UK and EU on 24 December 2020 did not include equivalency or mutual recognition of vehicle type approvals. All e11 type approvals previously issued in the UK by the VCA have therefore ceased to be valid in the EU 27 member states. The VCA has been transferring e11 approvals to e5 approvals from the equivalent authority in Sweden but manufacturers should check this has been done or make alternative arrangements.
A UK manufacturer with an EU 27 EWVTA approval (rather than an e11 approval) will not previously have needed to nominate a representative because the UK was part of the EU – and the situation remained unchanged during the transition period. However, from 1st January the manufacturer’s representative must be established in one of the EU 27 member states.
The manufacturer’s representative needs to be named on the Approval Document as appropriate for each EU directive or regulation with which compliance is claimed. The EU representative’s details also need to be on the Certificate of Conformity and, from 1st September 2020, on a label or plate attached to the vehicle, making it immediately obvious to anyone checking that a vehicle may not be compliant if it is missing.
A manufacturer’s representative can be an individual or a business, and large manufacturers may already have a European subsidiary that can take on this role. However, smaller manufacturers without a European subsidiary may not want the administrative overheads associated with setting one up. Although a distributor could act as the manufacturer’s representative, many distributors are unwilling to shoulder the burden of additional responsibilities; as the ‘economic operator’, the distributor would have to represent the manufacturer for the purposes of type approval and market surveillance.
Type approval for agricultural machines is being handled in much the same way as vehicles. This is the case with tractors, for which type approval is mandatory in the UK and EU, and trailers and trailed implements, for which type approval is mandatory in the EU but currently optional in the UK.
Hold Tech Files Ltd, which is established in the Republic of Ireland, is offering to be the manufacturer’s representative for UK manufacturers of vehicles and agricultural machinery. This provides a simple, expedient and cost-effective route to compliance with the requirement to have a manufacturer’s representative established in an EU 27 member state.
The service is provided via a user-friendly website. After signing a mandate and paying a fee (all fees are published on the website and there are no ‘hidden extras’), the relevant documentation can be uploaded to a secure server. Payment of a one-off fee entitles the manufacturer to name Hold Tech Files as the manufacturer’s representative for one year. If required, this representation can be extended annually by payment of a further fee.
Once the manufacturer’s representative has been established, the manufacturer will need to extend their EU 27 EWVTA approval in conjunction with their approval authority.
Please note: Hold Tech Files Ltd cannot advise on which approvals are required or provide consultancy services.