Just how safe are our borders?

Published:  07 March, 2017

Our final exit from the EU is still some time away and there are many questions that still need to be addressed. A key factor regarding the success of the ‘vote to leave’ camp was that it was perceived that this would give us the ability to better control our borders. This heightened protection is seen as offering us the opportunity to control immigration – but this factor is only one small element within the bigger border control picture. Steve Scholfield, (pictured) director and chief executive of the British Pump Manufacturer’s Association (BPMA), explains.

Take pumps for example; they may not be the first things you think of as a target for non-compliance issues. However, pump specialists in the UK who are part of the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) have been in active dialogue for over three years about such imports with the NMRO (National Measurement Regulatory Office) the authority accountable for such matters.

In recent years, market surveillance has been a key element in terms of delivering a fair and efficient EU internal market and to ensure that products placed on the market complied with EU regulations and did not pose any safety or environmental threats for users and the public at large. All of this was designed to ensure a level playing field/fair competition on the market as well as safeguarding the coherence of the European regulatory framework, the consistency of which depends on effective enforcement.

In the UK the responsibility for protecting us from non-compliant imports falls to the National Measurement and Regulation Office whose role is to simplify technical regulation for the benefit of British business. The BPMA approached them with growing evidence relating to the presence of illegal pump imports entering the UK from other countries, especially Asia back in 2013. The BPMA, supported by CEO’s from prominent member companies met with senior management of the NMRO and then subsequently the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) in their role as sponsors of the NMRO to encourage them to take appropriate action in Market Surveillance on Circulator Pumps.

To date, despite a variety of approaches both directly and indirectly to the NMRO and the BRDO, the situation remains unchanged with no specific plan to remove illegal products from the market, indeed there would appear to be no cohesive methodology to clearly identify rogue imports.

There are many concerns regarding these non-compliant products being available within our market as they have the capacity to cost bona fide companies millions of pounds in lost revenue, thus placing jobs and hard-earned reputations at risk. Another area of real concern relates to their safety as without proper testing they could present a safety risk.

The BPMA will however not be giving up in seeking action and currently are using a range of approaches to key figures within the Government to actively engage them in this debate.

Market surveillance is an important subject and one that is likely to come under increasing scrutiny. Moving forward we need a plan to protect our industries, reputations and borders from the unscrupulous exploitation of companies to whom standards are irrelevant. This stance may not be as headline grabbing as stopping people at our border crossings, but has the potential to make a fundamentally more significant difference.

Pumps on the face of it may not seem to be an obvious area of concern. However, their importance is evident all around us not only in maintaining internal ambient temperatures, but also in keeping the wheels of industry turning, delivering sufficient clean water to where it is needed and removing wastewater from where it is not. Protecting us from rogue pump imports is only one factor within this Brexit bigger picture. However, if we were unsuccessful before the vote, how can we ensure that we are protecting our borders successfully moving forward?

We all need to start being more responsible for the areas within which we can have influence i.e. ensuring the provenance of any pump systems that we are specifying or purchasing. The BPMA is committed to bring pressure to bear on all the agencies charged with maintaining standards for the greater good, but we need the support network to function properly in order to ensure that we are ready to take advantage of all the new opportunities that await us.

For further information please visit: www.bpma.org.uk

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