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What is the UK’s future role in developing European standards?

Following the referendum results, the UK Government has expressed its intention to trigger article 50, which would see the UK exit the EU, by early 2017. It will start a transition period lasting two years where the Government negotiates the arrangements for its withdrawal and future trading terms with Europe and the rest of the world.

While it will have huge implications for us all, the UK national standards body, BSI, is in a delicate position. Appointed by the UK Government, BSI works to simplify the market structure for innovation, knowledge sharing and growth. It helps to develop single shared standards as an efficient way to share information between government, industry and consumers. While European standards are developed by committee members of CEN and CENELEC, the BSI plays an important part in enabling the UK to trade internationally with minimal fuss and cost, and in the best interests of the end consumer.

6 considerations for European standards following Brexit

To discuss the UK’s future role in helping to shape European standards, BSI held a live webinar to cover the effect Brexit could have for standards in the UK, and its ambition for remaining a leading member of the European standards system. Participating in the discussions from BSI were Dr Scott Steedman CBE, Director of Standards, David Bell, Director of Standards Policy and Richard Collin, National and European Policy Manager. Here we share some of the highlights:

1) Business as usual
The main point that the BSI is keen to stress, is that for now, nothing changes. The UK will continue to contribute to the creation of new European standards, and industry should continue to operate as normal. The organisation has already taken immediate steps to communicate with all its stakeholders and reassure them for the coming months. And it has opened a dialogue with ministers in Scotland to ensure relations within the domestic market remain strong. For the longer-term, the BSI is already working closely with the UK Government to provide assistance as it negotiates the country’s exit from the EU.

2) The UK’s continued membership of CEN and CENELEC
CEN and CENELEC are private organisations outside the EU, coordinating the work of 33 countries in the making and dissemination of European standards. Membership is linked to the adoption of European standards and the withdrawal of conflicting national standards, facilitating market access across the member countries. It is the only market structure of its kind in the world, and as such, the BSI intends to retain full membership to allow the UK to continue having a say in any new European standards.

3) How Brexit could affect the UK’s position in the single market
Once Article 50 is triggered, one of the top priorities for Government is negotiating and agreeing a new relationship for the UK in the single market, so that we can continue to trade freely with Europe. Before the referendum took place, the BSI was proactive and undertook research to understand the potential scenarios the UK could find itself in. The report determined there were four possible outcomes, which range from retaining our current position, similar to how Norway and Iceland currently trade in the single market, through to trading as a third country where the UK would be subject to tariffs and quotas, similar to how New Zealand operates. By working closely with the UK Government, the BSI has shared these scenarios, and what it would mean for UK trade, to ensure more informed decision making can take place, which is in the best interests of our country to protect our industries.

4) The importance of the single market
While we need to wait for the political settlement to be negotiated and announced, one thing is clear today, the BSI intends to retain full membership to CEN and CENELEC because of the benefits being part of the single market brings to the UK. In an independent economic report from the CBR, it says operating within a single market is a ‘major catalyst for trade, providing confidence with a common trading language, lowering production costs and reducing barriers to trade, through the possibility of exploiting economies of scale.’ Therefore, it’s critical that the BSI retains its membership so our UK experts are able to influence the content of any new European standards and how those standards are implemented. Ultimately it will help to reduce complexity, as well as saving time, money and effort while ensuring product quality and safety. In the immediate future, the BSI will continue to demonstrate its commitment, overcoming any uncertainty about the UK’s position following a vote for Brexit by sharing its valuable knowledge and expertise.

5) European language of choice
All European standards are currently written in English. Following the vote for the UK to exit the EU, there has been speculation and concern that this may change in favour of a different European language. At the moment, about 80% of the European standards derive from IEC work, where the first language is English, therefore, this is not expected to change.

6) Funding for European standards
A big argument for the Brexit campaign was about funding and how we could retain large sums of money to be spent at home, rather than give it to the EU. The BSI currently receives no European funding for developing standards; the majority of funding is raised through individuals and companies, and many of the individuals that, make up the expert panels, those that actually help create the Standards, are volunteers, providing their time at no charge. Furthermore, CEN currently receives about 30% of its funding, and CENELEC about 20% of its funding, through the EU, so this would also remain largely unaffected.

Watch the webinar in full

Future-tech: where experience meets innovation

Future-tech’s CEO, James Wilman, is a member of the BSI Expert Panel TCT/7/3. This panel is helping shape the EN50600 Data Centre Infrastructure Standard. Together with other knowledgeable and skilled individuals James, and through internal collaboration the Future-tech team, helps ensure the data centre Standards of the future have a foundation in real world practical applications.

The UK has a long history of creating well rounded, well written and usable Standards. The Engineering Standards Committee was established in London in 1901 as the world’s first national standards body. It subsequently extended its standardization work and adopted the name British Standards Institution in 1931 after receiving its Royal Charter in 1929.

Standards produced by the BSI are seen as benchmarks and first reference point for many none EU nations. The UK has a positive effect on the Standards writing process and it is important for the Global Standards Industry that this continues.

If your organisation is interested in the EN50600 Data Centre Infrastructure Standard or you would like to understand how to make your data centre infrastructure perform more efficiently and be more flexible contact us.

Discover how we can help you meet the standard.