Standards key to success

Published:  07 August, 2018

Recent discussions by industry organisations and UK manufacturers have highlighted that Standards, not just Customs, are key to post Brexit trade success.

Recently speaking at the British Standards Institution’s BSI Standards Forum, Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned against allowing a ‘proxy war’ over a Customs Union to overshadow other crucial aspects of Brexit negotiations – including the UK’s future approach to standards, which will have a major impact on the competitiveness and market access of UK products after the UK leaves the European Union in 2019.

I agree with Marshall’s argument that the UK must secure its long-standing influence as a standards-setter at both European and global level. Together with BSI and other organisations, the British Chambers of Commerce has called upon the UK government to act swiftly to retain the UK’s place at the top table of European standards-setting bodies CEN and CENELEC, where the UK has long played a leading role in setting voluntary industrial standards.

Standards are one of a number of ‘behind the border’ issues that businesses highlight as crucial in the Brexit negotiations, as their complexity can present greater costs to business than some tariffs or customs procedures.

Marshall explained that various factions in Westminster still appear to be more interested in scoring points in their never-ending domestic political game, rather than working forensically to get the best possible outcome for the UK economy. The Customs Union debate currently raging is a case in point.

Many in industry are becoming more wide eyed about issues such as Standards as Brexit draws closer, and agree that Customs is far from the only issue at stake. As Marshall highlights, Standards may be less high profile, but future arrangements here are just as important for business planning.

Ultimately, as Marshall emphasises, the UK needs to decide whether, after leaving the EU, it will remain a standards-maker, or if it will become a standards-taker. He warns that if we do not maintain our commitment to the single standard model – only keeping one set of standards ‘in action’ for a given product – a standards-taker is exactly what we risk becoming.

Britain has always been at the forefront of global and European standards, and it would be a significant failure of Government if UK firms were unable to influence the very Standards that they must comply with.

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