EU Rights to Trade
As with services, the EU Treaties provide very broad and powerful rights for free movement of goods throughout the European Union. There are strong rights enforceable in any EU court which effectively presume that goods which comply with standards in one EU state, should be accepted as compliant in all EU states.
This is a powerful tool and pressure point in cutting across huge amounts of subtle and not so subtle red tape and hidden regulatory barriers. Basically, the onus is on the host state to prove that there is a very good and necessary reason why the home state regulation should not be accepted as equivalent to the host state regulation and why additional host state regulation is necessary.
Some goods are subject to licensing and export/import control. This applies even at present in trade between the EU and other countries in very limited circumstances. However, some licensing and control such as in relation to sanction goods, some agricultural goods, chemicals and many others are subject to EU wide requirements.
Common Product Standards and Regulation
Apart from the above general EU Treaty rights, there are general and product-specific systems of common standards and regulation throughout the EU in many sectors/ industries. There are detailed EU prescribed standards in some sectors.
In other sectors and more commonly, there are less detailed rules and standards and a more flexible approach applies. The states, under criteria in the EU legislation, approve certification bodies to verify compliance by products with the safety and standards requirements specified in the EU Directives for the product type.
A common CE mark is attached to goods to attest compliance. What is involved in compliance depends on the nature of the risk assessment approach taken. In many cases, a prototype is approved and the issue is one of conformity with it, which may be certified by the manufacturer in accordance with the approved prototype. In other cases, certification may be required by an independent body selectively or more routinely.
There are common standards on product liability, product safety and mechanisms for monitoring standards and compliance within the internal market. There are EU wide systems for alerting product safety and compliance failures.
Based on the information declared to HMRC and the other EU country’s customs authority, checks may be required for compliance with the legal standards for the goods concerned. At present, while customs works efficiently with non-EU countries only, a lot of the focus of the EU customs and revenue authorities is on compliance and conformity issues of this type, in trade from and to outside the European Union.
Sectors with EU based Standards
All goods are subject to the basic EU product standards and safety requirements. There are detailed labelling and information requirements for certain classes of products
There are detailed and specific rules in many important sectors.including
- motor vehicles
- lifting and mechanical appliances
- measuring instruments
- gas appliances
- construction products
- electrical and radio equipment
- medical devices
- medicinal products