F-Gas engineers urged to act on EU registration before Brexit transition end

Cooling engineers are urged to get free EU recognition of their qualifications before the end of Brexit transition period as uncertainty continues over future of the UK’s trade and regulatory relationship

Refcom has reiterated calls for UK-based cooling specialists to apply for an equivalency certificate for their engineers from Irish authorities before the end of the Brexit transition period in December.

The F-Gas certification body has said that Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency is offering the recognition for free so that existing UK F-Gas qualifications will be recognised in the country and other EU member states should ongoing trade talks fail to result in a mutual recognition clause.

Trade bodies representing the building engineering sector and the wider construction industry have continued to stress the importance to their members of ensuring some kind of reciprocal trade, tariff and customs arrangements with the EU once the transition period ends on 31 December. However, uncertainty remains at present over the UK’s intentions for trying to reach a deal. The UK government has repeatedly refused this year to seek a transition extension or rule out leaving without some form of deal even with the global impact of Covid-19.

Graeme Fox, Refcom’s head of technical, said it was still possible that a trading deal might yet be reached between UK authorities and the European Commission to enact a mutual recognition arrangement. this would mean that F-Gas certification in the UK would apply in EU member states and vice versa.

He added that alternatively, both parties could still walk away without any deal, meaning there would be no recognition of certificates issued in the UK by the end of the EU transition period.

Mr Fox added, “We are still advising members to apply on the Irish EPA website for an equivalency certificate for their engineers’ UK F-Gas qualifications in case there is no recognition clause after December. It’s free so why not be prepared?”

Refcom has maintained that the existing F-Gas phasedown requirements would still continue to apply in the UK even in the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit after they were transferred into UK statutory legislation. This decision was intended to ensure a smooth retention of the existing system beyond Brexit.

However, the issue of providing certification and engineering services between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the mainland UK continued to pose challenges beyond the transition.

Refcom said it was in discussions with sector bodies in Ireland about requests it had received from engineers and companies in the country to be able to retain their membership and certification from the UK-based body. The alternative at present would be to shift to a domestic provider that Refcom claimed did not currently provide free technical support and guidance, as well as software licences.

A view from Ireland

A recent Institute of Refrigeration Ireland (IRI) webinar looking at the implications of Brexit for the respective cooling industries in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has also highlighted the importance of F-Gas recertification before 11pm on 31 December.

The Irish government said during the event last week that a valid UK certificate or training attestation concerning F-Gas requirements must be presented with any certification application to ensure organisations in Ireland continue to comply with the law post-transition.

Errol Close, a spokesperson for Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, noted that Northern Ireland would continue to be party to the EU quota and certification requirements as part of the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Close said that this meant in practice that F-Gas trade and shipments between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – as an EU-member state – would not be considered as imported or exported products as would be the case for the mainland UK.

He said, “So the gas can move backward and forward as if it were an inter-EU movement. Where it does become different is that shipments from mainland Britain or another Non-EU member state into Northern Ireland or from NI to Great Britain are now classified as import/exports for the purposes of F-Gas regulation.”

Mr Close said he understood that the UK government was presently committed to continue to accept EU and Irish certification in the country as part of ongoing F-Gas compliance.

However, is it understood that question marks remain over whether a mutual agreement may be backed by the EU going forward.

Mr Close said that Irish authorities, as part of the EU, hoped ongoing talks would lead to a trade agreement being reached with the UK – an issue he said that had vital importance for the cooling sector across Europe, outside of it implications for F-Gas regulations.

The issue of F-Gas recertification for both UK and Ireland-based organisations ahead of the end of the transition agreement was highlighted as being vital important for cooling engineers to future proof themselves domestically against any regulatory uncertainty posed by Brexit, he added.

Article by Neil Merrett and published in RAC