What does the Brexit Trade Deal Mean for Commercial Construction?

Brexit has caused plenty of disruption for the construction industry in the past year. However, when the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU came into force on 1st January 2021 a glimmer of hope appeared that a clearer path lay ahead. In many ways this is certainly the case, for example the deal will allow UK construction companies to reliably forecast the cost and availability of materials being imported from the EU. In other issues there is less certainty. These are some of the key areas where the trade deal is going to make an impact on commercial construction.


Harmonising standards


Efforts have been made to ensure that there is harmony between the standards in the UK and the EU when it comes to products. The Construction Products Regulation remains in place in the UK, governing the methods and criteria used for assessing performance of a product in relation to its essential characteristics. However, there are going to be a few amendments, including with respect to how new products demonstrate conformity with established standards. Currently, the ‘harmonising standards’ of the EU are the UK’s ‘designated standards’ so construction products already on the market are likely to be unaffected. However, there could come a point in future where the UK’s designated standards diverge from the EU’s harmonising standards and that’s where issues could arise.


Trade of goods between the UK and the EU


Brexit is having a big impact here. Steps need to be taken to ensure that supply chains are not disrupted as a result of new restrictions on movement of goods and existing agreements may need to be renegotiated. Key questions include, will performance of the contract now be more difficult and what provisions need to be re-addressed to minimise vulnerability – for example, can faulty products be returned at no extra cost?


Mutual recognition and product marking


  • Mutual recognition of goods. Goods must meet the regulatory requirements of the part of the UK they were produced in order to achieve mutual recognition, which means they can be sold elsewhere in the country. The mutual recognition principle applies to the sale of goods, as well as a number of supply-related activities, such as samples.
  • Product marking. There are now three different product marks for goods, and manufacturers may need to use a conformity assessment body to show that a product complies. These are: The EU’s marking for product conformity (CE marking), The United Kingdom Conformity Assessed mark (UKCA mark) and The United Kingdom Northern Ireland mark (UK(NI) mark).


Freedom of movement


The issue of workforce shortages looms large in the wake of Brexit – EU workers made up 10% of the entire construction workforce last year. Freedom of movement has now come to an end and been replaced by a points based application system. This system prioritises ‘skilled workers,’ which includes architects, engineers and carpenters. Applicants must have an appropriate job offer in place.


The trade deal has a wide ranging impact for commercial construction – these are just some of the key points to note.

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