Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

EU prepares car approval system for Brexit

  • An approval for a car type currently acquired in the United Kingdom is valid in the entire EU. (Photo: Martin Pettitt)

When the European Union's system for approving passenger cars for the single market was designed, the possibility of an EU member state leaving was probably not envisaged as a likely problem.

Now that the United Kingdom has decided to leave the EU, this definitely does pose a problem.

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  • The European Commission has proposed new legislation which would allow manufacturers of - for example - tractors to re-apply for certification in the EU-27 (Photo: Amanda Slater)

The system of determining whether car types adhere to the EU's safety and environmental standards is based on mutual recognition.

Any EU member state's type approval authority can certify a car – and the approval is then valid across the bloc.

But the legislation does not determine what happens when one of the countries leaves the EU.

This is particularly worrying for Asian car manufacturers like Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, and Honda, which have an established precedent of acquiring their certification via the UK's Vehicle Certification Agency.

Volkswagen Group's Skoda also used to be regular applicant in the UK - but it announced earlier this year that it would no longer do so, because of Brexit uncertainty.

On Monday afternoon (5 November), members of the European Parliament's committee on internal market and consumer protection will vote on a proposal by the European Commission to prepare the type-approval system for Brexit.

The legislative proposal will adapt not only the system for certifying passenger cars, but also a range of other vehicles, like motorbikes, quads, harvesters, tractors, and industrial vehicles like bulldozers – all of which need an EU type approval before they can be sold on the European market.

The new rules will allow manufacturers that already have acquired type approvals in the UK to apply for replacement certificates in one of the 27 remaining EU countries – something that was not allowed before.

The draft regulation also says that tests related to the certification process do not have to be repeated - unless an authority in the EU-27 specifically asks for it.

Manufacturers who re-apply will be "liable to pay adequate fees", and they have to do so "before the day when Union law ceases to apply in and to the United Kingdom".

Since the revenues for type approvals go to the national coffers, it can be a lucrative business model for the remaining member states to try and attract manufacturers to re-apply there.

However, with the granting type approvals also comes great responsibilities.

The country whose authority approved a vehicle is also in charge of carrying out market surveillance – for example on whether a vehicle is using illegal emissions-cheating devices.

The draft regulation was proposed by the commission in June 2018. The Council of the EU – where national governments meet – reached an agreement on 24 October, which is relatively fast.

Following the vote in parliament on Monday, the three sides will negotiate behind closed doors to thrash out a deal on the final version of the bill.

The Brussels-based car industry lobby organisation Acea has said last month that it supported the initiative, and called on the EU to turn the bill into law before the end of the year.

That should not be too hard, as no major changes have been proposed so far by either council or parliament.

Investigation

Dieselgate shows weakness of EU federalism-lite

EU states are hesitant to transfer power to Brussels, but the case of how car certification works, or doesn't work, in practice gives few arguments to supporters of the status quo.

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EU states forsook oversight on car emissions

An EUobserver investigation and EU parliament testimony paint a gloomy picture of how EU national authorities neglected to implement clean air car laws.

Car lobby uses Brexit to dispute CO2 targets

The lobby group for European car manufacturers has said that if UK sales data is not counted when calculating CO2 emissions, the target should be reviewed. The commission has refused to comment.

Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

British politicians from almost all sides have denounced a draft Brexit deal agreed between London and Brussels on Tuesday, raising the risk of a messy outcome.

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