Business and enterprise – guidance

Mutual Recognition Regulation across the EEA

If you are exporting 'non-harmonised goods' such as pet animals, foodstuffs, furniture, fireworks, tobacco, vehicles or precious metals, you need the technical rules under UK law.

Introduction

The free movement of goods and services is a fundamental principle of the EU, which has benefited businesses and consumers by opening markets and stimulating trade between member states.

The Mutual Recognition Regulation (EC 764/2008), in force since May 2009, strengthens the operation of free trade in goods in the EU. (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) but not of the EU itself, also agreed to this regulation.)  It requires that all member states provide free information on their national technical rules and sets out a standard procedure for enforcing those rules.

The Regulation simplifies market entry for businesses as they are able to market and sell their goods in any or all of the 30 countries that make up the EEA based on recognition of their products in any member state.

This guide explains how mutual recognition works in practice, provides information on how to find the UK’s technical rules for specific products, and introduces the corresponding services in other EEA member states.

The principle of mutual recognition

Mutual recognition is the principle of EU law under which member states must allow goods that are legally sold in another member state also to be sold in their own territory.

For the exporter, this means that a product legally on sale in one EU country should not have to meet a second set of requirements in the country to which they are exporting.

The importing member state can disregard this principle only under strictly defined circumstances, such as where public health, the environment or consumer safety are at risk, and where the measures taken can be shown to be proportionate.

Mutual recognition applies to non-harmonised goods - those that are not already covered by EU-wide legislation setting common requirements (eg in terms of safety or environmental performance) that all products of that type must meet before being placed on the EU market.

Harmonised legislation covers the majority of goods traded within the EU, including toys, machinery, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Non-harmonised goods include certain foodstuffs, furniture, bicycles, ladders and precious metals.

The main advantage of mutual recognition is that it removes the need to harmonise all national technical rules. Technical rules typically relate to weight, size, composition, labelling and packaging.

Harmonisation can be very time-consuming, and is of limited value when only a few member states wish to regulate a particular product, or when the volume of sales of that product means that the costs of harmonisation outweigh the benefits.

Under the Mutual Recognition Regulation (764/2008/EC) member states must:

  • raise awareness of the mutual recognition principle and its application
  • make clear the product categories to which mutual recognition applies
  • maintain product contact points providing free information on any national rules that apply to non-harmonised goods
  • ensure that enforcement authorities set out clear justification and evidence for any actions which may contravene the mutual recognition principle
  • provide solutions within given deadlines where problems are encountered

Technical rules for specific (non-harmonised) products in the UK

The Mutual Recognition Regulation is all about ‘technical rules’. A technical rule is something which is not required by EU harmonised legislation, and which provides the authorities in an importing member state with a basis for excluding a product from the market. Technical rules broadly fall into three categories:

  • provisions which prohibit the marketing of particular products
  • requirements for products to have particular characteristics when they are marketed (eg in terms of quality, safety or labelling)
  • rules about the subsequent use or treatment of products which significantly affect the way they are made or marketed - eg recycling obligations

Technical rules in the UK

This guide lists below all the product specific UK technical rules, with links to the full regulation on the legislation.gov.uk website.

Goods requiring prior authorisation

Certain goods require prior authorisation - ie the product or design must be submitted for testing or approval by the authorities of a member state or a designated private body before they can be placed lawfully on the UK market. A requirement for prior authorisation is not itself a technical rule, but the criteria against which a product is assessed may be technical rules.

For all of the items listed below, the regulation tells you if the rule involves a requirement for prior authorisation. If prior authorisation is not mentioned, it can be assumed that none is required with that rule, ie providing the product meets the requirements of the relevant regulation it can be lawfully marketed without having to be approved first.

Note that even though a product might not be subject to prior authorisation requirements as a result of the regulation, there may be other requirements to submit products for third party testing or approval prior to placing on the market as a result of harmonised legislation. Find a list of references of harmonised standards on the Europa website.

Specific regulations for the UK

This is an exhaustive list of UK technical rules to the best knowledge of the UK Product Contact Point. However, should you have an unresolved enquiry relating to the UK technical rules for products please contact mutual.recognition@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

Animals

Bicycles

Clothing

Construction

Containers for specific purposes

Fireworks and explosives

Food and drink

Furniture, furnishings and household items

Gas and electrical equipment, appliances and safety

Items intended for use by children

Lottery and gaming machines

Measuring equipment

Obscene materials

Pharmaceuticals and medicines

Tobacco

Vehicles and traffic signs

You can use the licence finder to get the permits and licences that apply to your business.

For more general advice see the section on manufacturing regulations.

Mutual Recognition Regulation in other EU member states

All EU member states have similar mutual recognition procedures and resources to those in the UK.

Product Contact Points

Product Contact Points provide free information to businesses on the national technical rules that apply in their own territory. They will provide details of products, or aspects of products, to which the mutual recognition principle applies, and the national technical rules relating to those products.

Businesses can obtain information on which products are subject to national technical requirements, and what those requirements specify. You can find information about Product Contact Points in the UK and other Member States on the Europa website.

SOLVIT: resolving issues with free movement of goods

The free SOLVIT online service is available to businesses to help resolve any issue raised by a public authority which they believe prevents or delays their plans to establish, freely provide products, and/or generally carry out business anywhere within the EU.

Similarly, the EU Services Directive facilitates the unrestricted provision of services in the EU and here too SOLVIT can assist when businesses encounter problems in realising this right. For more information, see the guidance on international trade in services.

Every EU member state has a SOLVIT centre, as have Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

SOLVIT centres are part of the national administration and aim to provide practical solutions to problems within ten weeks.

Business complaints that SOLVIT can help with include:

  • market access for products
  • public procurement
  • free movement of goods
  • restrictions on provision of services

SOLVIT can also help individual citizens.

Find the list of national SOLVIT centres on the EUROPA website.

For information about trade barriers outside the EU see Removing trade barriers for UK exporters.

Further information

Information on the single market for goods on the EUROPA website

Mutual recognition information on the Europa website

Contact details for Product Contact Points in all EEA states

The European small business portal on the Europa website

Country profiles of all EU member states on the UK Trade & Investment website

Country profiles of all EU member states on the UK Trade & Investment website

Download a SOLVIT brochure from the EUROPA website (PDF, 369K)