International Packaging Regulations After Brexit

Translating packaging post-Brexit
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After a stormy three years, it appears that Brexit is finally set to become reality. The UK is expected to formally withdraw from the EU on  31 January 2020. Free trade agreements will come later. With the details of these agreements still unclear, international trade is facing a period of uncertainty.  For industries as diverse as food and drink, pharmaceuticals and cars, this lack of confidence in what the future holds is affecting investment. Naturally, all of this feeds into business decisions on launching products into international markets.

For businesses selling products in these markets, regulations regarding product packaging and labelling are a major concern. We don’t have a crystal ball. Much is still up in the air.

With that said, here are our best predictions and recommendations for staying on top of multilingual packaging is a post-Brexit regulatory environment.

*Disclaimer- The information below is subject to change. For the most current information, please feel free to consult with our international labelling compliance specialists!

Regulation – a good thing or a bad thing?

Business has always found rules and regulations restricting. Doing away with “all that red tape”, the complex and sometimes opaque trading regulations that apply within the EU, was one of the key attractions of the Brexit promise to voters.  Keep in mind, however, that trade regulations were drawn up to ensure that businesses in different countries are competing on a level playing field. This is never more relevant than when trading abroad. The so-called red tape has also played a critical role in providing customers with information and in ensuring consumer safety.

In fact, in October of 2019, a group of companies in the aerospace, automotive, chemicals, food and drink and pharmaceutical sectors sent a letter warning the government against straying too far from EU regulations. Industry leaders fear it would hurt their competitiveness.

How is Brexit likely to affect current labelling regulations?

The exact consequences of Brexit are as yet unknown. Recent election results don’t completely dispel fears of a “hard” Brexit 2.0. Trade agreements take time to negotiate, after all, and one year is not a lot of time.

However, it is probably safe to say that most of the regulations regarding international trade will stay the same- for a little while longer, at least.

Ideally, any changes that do come will be phased in gradually. As of December 2019, the expectation is that trade relationships between the EU and the UK will remain unchanged for the next year, as part of a transition period ending 31 December 2020.

After that transition period, labelling regulations will be subject to whatever deal has been negotiated and accepted by both parties. Failing a deal or an extended transition, standard World Trade Organisation rules would apply.

Packaging regulations post-transition

Current labelling regulations ensure that consumers are well-informed about the products they are buying. They also ensure that all relevant quality checks are being performed. How will Brexit affect these regulations? Some changes are almost certainly on the horizon. At this point, however, it’s difficult to say precisely how much and in what ways they will change. Layers of trading regulations affecting international trade could even increase, as the UK  negotiates and signs new trading agreements.

The devil is always in the details. And we are sadly short on details at the moment.

That said, some plans have already been made. For example, after the transition, certain products being sold within the UK will need the UKCA mark on the label.  This is essentially the UK version of the CE mark. Eventually, affected goods will need both marks on the label if they are to be sold on both markets.

Additionally, new country-of-origin labelling requirements will almost certainly apply to items like food and cosmetics. Organic labelling is likely to become a sticking point for companies that import and export organics.

At this point, however, it’s difficult to say  precisely how much and in what ways they will change. Layers of trading regulations affecting international trade could even increase, as the UK  negotiates and signs new trading agreements.

What are the potential consequences of mistakes in labelling?

International growth is still key to increased revenues and profitability and companies will always seek to trade with overseas markets.  Products launched beyond home borders will still need to meet the relevant packaging and labelling standards. That means extra vigilance is going to be required in such a fluid and rapidly-changing global marketplace.

International regulations are often highly complex and changing legislation can sometimes be unclear.  Companies which are not fully up to date or compliant with both international trade bloc requirements plus the more obscure local regulations can face consequences of varying degrees of severity:

  • they may find that they are out of step with their customers, retailers, distributors and suppliers
  • they may find themselves subject to fines
  • large scale and expensive product withdrawals may be necessary
  • the launch within that market is scuppered or has to be postponed
  • and, potentially the most costly of all, non-compliant or misleading labelling could lead to a PR disaster that affects a company’s reputation for years to come…

How can businesses be sure that their multilingual label is fully compliant?

Want to keep your business ahead of the game? You must ensure that you are completely confident with the translated versions of your multilingual packaging. These must focus as carefully on the legal implications of the labelling as the original.

By tackling the following points well before launch, you will be on the right track:

  • Is there a master copy in the original source language that complies fully with international labelling regulations?
  • Multilingual labelling always means that space is limited. Is the original copy clean, concise and worded clearly and simply?
  • Are the translated copies accurate, fluent and localised to ensure that they are culturally appropriate? The easiest way to ensure that the wording of the translation does not rebound negatively on the company is to use professional, mother tongue linguists. It is a mistake to rely on students or someone in the office who learnt the language at school. A skilled linguist can spot any subtle changes affecting compliance that may occur during the translation process.
  • Is the layout optimised for the different languages, characters and fonts so that it will look attractive to new customers within your target markets?

Effective solutions – and peace of mind!

At a time of rapidly changing parameters, managing issues of legal compliance for global markets in multiple languages is a challenging and complex task. It requires a combination of knowledge and skills, together with an ability to identify and focus on the key areas that will help your company avoid costly and damaging mistakes.

Any business serious about international growth in today’s uncertain regulatory environment needs a strong partnership with a professional language services partner. An agile, compliance-driven LSP can manage this whole process from start to finish. At K International, we offer a variety of solutions to help your company cope with regulations that change on a whim. For example, our multilingual overstickers simplify the process of correcting packaging compliance issues.

Labelling that is both fully compliant and appealing to your target global markets will establish the reputation of your brand and the foundations for exponential growth – and bring you that elusive peace of mind!

Contact us today to find out more about our labelling solutions.