Ensuring consistent standards after Brexit

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For over a century, British Standards Institution (BSI) has championed the values of transparency, collaboration and trust across borders through the adoption of best practice.

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union undoubtedly reinforces the importance of such shared values, and their ability to ease potential barriers to trade

BSI helps organisations demonstrate their commitment to quality, wherever they are in the world, and wherever they wish to trade. We play a central role in achieving industry consensus on best practice, shaping standards and certifying products and services to them across 193 countries.

Despite the uncertainty presented by Brexit, the standards that demonstrate quality will stay the same. Resilient businesses will not see Britain’s withdrawal from the EU as a threat to the way in which they demonstrate quality. Ultimately, the measures they put in place to keep consumers safe globally and boost economic returns for British industry will remain unchanged.

Ensuring UK experts define international standards

European and international standards are adopted as British Standards to make up nearly 85 per cent of our national catalogue.

A common standards model facilitates reciprocal market access, and over the past 30 years, CEN and CENELEC – two of the European Standards Organisations – have been working towards this through the identical adoption of European standards by all national members’ standards bodies.

The withdrawal of conflicting national standards has reduced the number of national standards across Europe dramatically: from an estimated 160,000 to around 20,000 European standards today. This has been effective in helping to reduce costs and remove barriers to trade for UK businesses.

The Eurostar is perceived as a symbol of the close relationship between the UK and Europe. Photograph: iStock/mikeuk

It is therefore crucial to maintain the UK’s influence over the content of these standards: ensuring the continuity of the standards system, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

Our business and consumer stakeholders have been very clear in their wish for the UK to continue to have full representational rights and influence within these European processes, and this has determined the BSI position. This has also been endorsed by the government and specifically by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

In November last year, BSI’s immediate post-Brexit membership of the European Standards Organisations CEN and CENELEC was confirmed as part of a plan of transition to update the statutes of those bodies and deliver a permanent solution by the end of 2020.

Confidence in the supply chain

Trade relies upon mutual trust that products and practices are sufficiently high performing, low risk and sustainable – wherever they originate from. It’s in this context that standards become a truly valuable source of trusted knowledge, creating security amidst uncertainty. Many of these directly support regulatory requirements for food, product safety and environmental protection.

As supply chains become more complex and global, best practice must be applied at every stage of the process. ISO 44001, for example, provides a framework for delivering collaborative business relationships. This promotes ethical and positive partnerships with suppliers, customers and company divisions across the supply chain.

By establishing this trust, standards make a huge economic contribution to the UK – equivalent to £8.2 billion in 2013, or 28.4 per cent of annual GDP growth. Not only as a nation but as individuals too – independent research in 2015 found that 41 per cent of SMEs and 36 per cent of large companies in the UK are more likely to export if they use industry standards.

Migrating CE certificates

Currently, certain products must have the CE marking affixed in order to be sold in the UK as in the rest of Europe. Preparations are taking place across the UK government to ensure that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, a new UK regulatory mark – the UKCA mark – would replace the CE marking for the purposes of regulatory compliance in the UK in due course.

The role of the UKCA mark would be to support the authorities and provide clarity to manufacturers post-Brexit. Parallel to this is the ability for UK manufacturers to have their products certified to be sold in the UK and Europe.

BSI is now able to conduct product conformity assessments out of its Netherlands notified body, working alongside BSI’s existing notified body designation with the UK government. It achieved the RvA (Raad voor Accreditatie) accreditation in December, allowing it to assess the compliance of products across various regulations and recently achieved its designation for the Construction Products Regulation.

BSI is also in the final stages of application to become a designated notified body to the Personal Protective Equipment Regulation, the Gas Appliance Regulation and the Pressure Equipment Directive. We expect confirmation from the appropriate Netherlands government departments soon.

BSI’s strategy is to continue growing and operating two notified bodies in both the Netherlands and the UK for the Construction Products Regulation. There is a straightforward process, which is primarily administrative, for manufacturers to migrate existing client CE certificates to the new BSI Netherlands notified body.

Building resilience through governance change

Ultimately, a wise approach to Brexit hinges on preparedness. This is not new news: leaders around the world have long known their responsibility to prepare their organisations to withstand factors out of their control.

We know from our organisational resilience survey, conducted last year with over 800 CEOs worldwide, that governance and accountability are of major concern to them – more so this year than ever before.

Resilient businesses will take Britain’s exit from the European Union as a challenge to bolster the way they demonstrate quality. Standards are created and adopted voluntarily by industry, requiring them to be proactive about developing robust processes, procedures and assessments. The opportunity for continuity, preserving market access in Europe and enabling trade globally – amidst the greater narrative of Brexit uncertainty – is something that businesses can take hold of with confidence.





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