There are two types of EN standards that demonstrate a commitment to standardisation in industry. An EN standard can either be an internationally-recognised standard, such as an ISO or IEC that has been adopted at a regional level by the European Union, or it can be a European standard such as CEN, CENELEC, or ETSI.
But could there be changes to EN standards if Britain does indeed leave the EU? We’ve already looked at the impact of Brexit on the manufacturing industry as a whole but, at a more granular level, it could impact a whole range of things.
Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and it is unclear whether Britain will leave with a deal in place… or whether it will even leave at all. What we do know, however, is that the British Standards Institute (BSI) publishes EN standards in British English for the UK National Standards Body; a body that is currently recognised by CEN and CENELEC. So what could happen to these BS-EN standards?
Although there are many possibilities, the two most likely options are:
The BSI is hopeful that they can continue to release EN standards. During a meeting in November 2018, CEN and CENELEC confirmed that a ‘transition period’ would be implemented following Britain’s withdrawal until the end of 2020 to determine if the relationship could continue successfully. This relationship would certainly make things easier for the BSI, and there are benefits for the EU, too. Not only does it remove the need for the EU to appoint a new body for British English publications, but it is also suggested that both CEN and CENELEC rely heavily upon financial support provided by the BSI.
If the BSI is unable to maintain a relationship with CEN and CENELEC, the organisation could start to adopt international standards directly, rather than releasing EN standards. There are actually advantages to this, providing Britain with greater control over its own standards; something that the country has not had power over since the EU’s first workplace health and safety directive was introduced in 1989. But this option also raises questions, such as whether existing BS-EN standards would remain valid. The BSI’s view is that existing ‘harmonised’ standards would be translated into British ‘designated’ standards.
While the future of BS-EN standards is certainly up in the air, what we can be sure of is that British industry will continue to work to a set of agreed, standardised criteria. According to the BSI, more than one third of productivity growth in the UK is directly attributed to standards, which means that standards will continue to be of value across many sectors in light of a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit, or no Brexit at all.