At the time of writing, we’re still unsure what will happen on 29 March, when the UK is legally bound to leave the European Union, deal or no deal.
For businesses this has led to uncertainty and made planning for the future difficult.
For the air conditioning and refrigeration industry, the added complication is in understanding exactly how F-Gas regulations will change come 30 March, and what this will do to refrigerant quotas and the uptake of gases with lower GWP (Global Warming Potential).
Some may have thought this could all be avoided and we would be free to ‘do our own thing’
Business as usual
The UK has already brought F-Gas laws into our own legal framework, so regardless of the type of Brexit we end up with, it is pretty much business as usual for contractors and corporations in terms of recording refrigerant use, regular inspections for leaks and making sure that only qualified engineers handle refrigerants.
So, whatever happens with Brexit, the responsibilities on all of us in the industry do not change and the forthcoming phase down of refrigerants will still apply.
Impact on quotas
However, the ‘deal or no deal’ does have implications for the quota system, which is a major part of the F-Gas phase down of HFC refrigerants, and this is where the uncertainty could cause confusion and added paperwork.
The current understanding is that the UK will keep the same quotas as before, but they will now need to be administered by our government.
The challenge arises if we leave without a deal as the Europe-wide quota system will no longer apply and the UK government will need to create its own database of companies who produce HFC refrigerants, here in Britain, list those that trade or export HFCs, and those that import pre-charged equipment.
In case you thought this could all be avoided and that we would be free to ‘do our own thing’, it’s worth remembering that the F-Gas legislation is part of Europe’s plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions and their effect on global warming.
The UK government is also fully committed to this as a primary way of tackling the catastrophic effects of climate change – which should be of concern to all of us.
So one consequence of the UK taking over responsibility for the quotas is likely to be more bureaucracy, at a time when contractors and manufacturers are busy trying to persuade customers to switch to lower-GWP equipment.
The other slight worry is whether Europe will recognise current F-Gas qualifications for engineers working in the UK, which will affect anyone who achieved their qualification abroad. This would include Ireland of course.
Logic suggests that some reciprocal arrangement will be found that will allow people to carry on working, but so far in the whole Brexit negotiations, logic does not seem to have had much sway.
What does DEFRA say?
In a recent statement Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) reported that: “The implementation of the F-Gas Regulations will continue exactly as it is at present after the UK leaves the EU on March 29 this year. All existing certification will remain valid and the UK intends to continue recognising certificates issued in other EU member states prior to the leave date.”
Defra also confirmed that it was working with in the process of expanding its workforce resources to try and tackle ongoing concerns over F-Gas compliance in the country and the issue of non-compliant imports.
Defra has also produced a publication which details the new quotas and licencing systems and how to apply, which can be found here.
Whilst everybody involved is hopeful that the full details can be sorted out before the end of March, it just highlights how challenging a No Deal exit could be.