Standards policy on the UK leaving the EU

Update: 05 February 2019 – Preparation for a possible ‘no-deal’ Brexit – business as usual for standards

The official policy of the UK Government continues to be that the UK should leave the European Union with a deal. However, the outcome of the vote held in the House of Commons on 15 January means that the Government has not succeeded in obtaining approval for its proposed withdrawal agreement and new political partnership with the European Union.

Preparations are taking place across government to ensure that in the case that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March without a deal, regulatory continuity will be ensured. This includes both the designation of standards to support regulations under the New Legislative Framework and the introduction of a new UK regulatory mark that will be affixed to products or their packaging. The role of the UK Mark will be to support the authorities and provide clarity to manufacturers placing products on the market in the UK post-Brexit – but only in the case that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

As the National Standards Body, BSI is responsible for the UK's catalogue of national standards, over 84% of which are identical to international and European standards. Many of these directly support the regulatory requirements for product safety and environmental protection. In the event that a UK Mark is required, it will be underpinned by the same British Standards as current legislation.

Through BSI’s membership of the international and regional European standards organisations, UK experts representing industry, consumers and other stakeholders will continue to influence the standards that are used to support regulatory requirements such as those that will support the UK Mark post Brexit.

Notably, following the decision taken in the general assemblies of both organizations, BSI will continue to be a full member of CEN and CENELEC regardless of the conditions under which the UK leaves the EU, including in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement. BSI experts will still be entitled, as now, to participate in CEN and CENELEC technical committees while BSI will continue to enjoy full voting rights in both organizations’ decision-making bodies. During the transition period for the statutes which will begin from the date of the UK’s departure from the EU, the statutes of the organizations will be reviewed with a view to BSI continuing as a full member on a permanent basis from the end of that transition period in December 2020.

Update: 23 November issue

BSI secures membership of CEN and CENELEC.

On 23 November, the General Assemblies of the European Standards Organizations CEN and CENELEC approved a plan that secures BSI’s full membership post-Brexit. BSI welcomes these decisions as a pragmatic solution that provides stability for the European standards system while meeting the needs of our stakeholders.

The decisions, taken separately in both organizations, will enable UK industry and other stakeholders to continue their important work shaping and maintaining best practice standards used across Europe and internationally. They also mean that UK experts will continue as chairs, convenors, committee members and policy experts to work on maintaining and developing the 20,000 European standards that are managed by CEN and CENELEC.

Furthermore, these decisions are a welcome confirmation of BSI’s policy position, in place since the referendum, that its membership and continued influence in the development and maintenance of European standards should not be affected by Brexit.

BSI’s position has enjoyed overwhelming support among UK stakeholders. UK manufacturers, service providers, trade associations, consumer bodies and others have been clear and consistent in their message that they want to continue to work within the European standards system and that the continued membership of BSI in CEN and CENELEC is therefore critical. Membership of CEN and CENELEC provides UK influence over market access conditions in 33 other European countries. In addition, CEN and CENELEC members play a vital role in the international standards system through ISO and IEC. Influencing international standards is crucial in ensuring the future global competitiveness of the UK.

The support of government for maintaining the UK position within the European standards system has been vital to secure this outcome. Government support for BSI’s position was confirmed by the Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark in June and in the July 2018 Brexit White Paper, and is reflected in the Withdrawal Act and ‘no deal’ technical notices. The latest version of the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU also stresses alignment on technical barriers to trade issues, including standards.

CEN and CENELEC members supported proposals to facilitate BSI’s continuation as a full member and recognized that although there is an important link between their work and European and national regulation, pan-European technical cooperation in the development and maintenance of standards is primarily a market-led activity. The General Assemblies agreed a transition period for their statutes until the end of 2020, including a derogation for BSI from certain eligibility clauses, during which time BSI will undergo an independent review of its processes and both CEN and CENELEC will agree any necessary revisions to their statutes.

The UK, through BSI, will continue to commit to the fundamental membership principles of CEN and CENELEC, meaning that all member countries of CEN and CENELEC have a consistent and coherent catalogue of national standards for industry, consumers and regulators.

For further information contact the BSI Brexit and standards team using

BSI Brexit and Standards Event – 10 October 2018

BSI hosted a half-day briefing event in Central London on 10 October 2018 to provide an update on Brexit developments and progress in support of BSI’s ambition, supported by its stakeholders, towards continued membership of CEN and CENELEC.

The event, attended by some 150 people, began with keynotes from the Chief Executive of EEF, Stephen Phipson CBE as well as BSI Director of Standards, Dr Scott Steedman CBE. This was followed by a panel discussion on the role of standards and trade. The panellists were Liam Smyth, Director of International Trade Facilitation at the British Chambers of Commerce; David Henig, Director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the European Centre for International Political Economy and Ben Richards, Campaigns and Policy Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute as well as Scott Steedman.

The briefing represented an opportunity for BSI’s industry and consumer stakeholders to raise concerns and ask questions about the impact of Brexit on those who develop or use standards in the UK.

A highlights video summing up the main points of the event is available below. Complete footage of the event is available via the following link.

Standards policy

Since the result of the EU referendum BSI, in its role as the UK’s National Standards Body, has worked hard to ensure that certain key messages - about how standards support trade, growth and productivity - are given full weight in the ongoing discussions and negotiations over what form Brexit should take.

BSI maintains the UK’s national standards body membership of the three European standardization organizations (ESOs): CEN, CENELEC and ETSI. CEN and CENELEC coordinate the work of 34 member countries, including all of the 28 present members of the EU, in the making and the dissemination of European standards. All three organizations are entirely private bodies, and therefore not part of the EU’s institutional framework, and BSI’s continued membership should not accordingly be affected by Brexit. Some adjustment to the internal rules of CEN and CENELEC may be necessary to assure this and steps are in hand to bring this about. There are no such adjustments required in the case of ETSI.

If the UK does not maintain its full membership of CEN and CENELEC through BSI, British stakeholders would lose their influence over the content of the standards used in the 33 other member countries and British industry would face increased barriers to trade.

Currently the UK is a leading nation in the international standards system. The aim of this system is to develop one standard on any given aspect of a product or service, to be adopted in countries worldwide: a single national standard model.  Europe is the most developed part of the international system as the ESO member countries must adopt the European standard identically and withdraw any conflicting national standards. This has greatly reduced cost and complexity for industry and consumers, enabled business to operate easily across borders and simplified market access.

UK stakeholders have overwhelmingly expressed their support for the UK to remain committed to the adoption of international and European standards as the national standard, used as today. BSI’s intention is to ensure that the UK is best placed, post-Brexit, to use its leadership position in international and European standards to deliver competitive advantage for UK industry.

BSI is well on the way to securing its continued full membership of CEN and CENELEC by asserting these credentials along with its continued commitment to meeting the rules of participation in the system. It has also secured the support of the UK government in this regard.

BSI’s ‘Brexit and standards position statement’ from February 2018 covers all of these points in more detail and can be downloaded here.

International level

Our membership of the two international standardization organizations, ISO and IEC, will be unaffected by the UK’s exit from the EU.  BSI is committed to representing the UK’s interests in the creation of international standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.