The UK must have full control over our standards and regulations post-Brexit

The UK must have full control over our standards and regulations post-Brexit

As everyone knows, the UK is leaving the EU. But there is yet to be clarity on the final deal.

I have always argued that the basis for negotiation should be WTO rules. If we get a free trade arrangement, that might be a bonus. The UK and our industry would manage and thrive under WTO arrangements. Most major exporters to the EU export without difficulty to WTO rules.

Standards and regulatory independence is vital for the UK, post-EU membership. To leave control over these important areas with the EU after we have left would be extremely bad for the UK: we must have full control over our own Standards and regulatory bodies. There will be no role for the European Court of Justice over these areas. The Prime Minister has made it clear: we will be leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. We will be no longer under the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The UK and our courts will be sovereign.

There are currently two trains of thought with regard to Standards and future trade with the EU that are being debated:

  1. That anyone who wishes to trade with the EU post-Brexit would have to work to the EU Standards required for those specific jobs. (We already have to use local standards in every other export market; and non-EU exporters to the EU have to use EU Standards for that trade, but not any other trade outside the EU).
  2. That an agreement be reached with the EU on mutual recognition and acceptance of Standards.

Post-Brexit the UK must be in a position to have full control over our Standards and regulations. Failure to achieve this would diminish the UK’s ability to secure future international trade deals in the much larger and growing world. The great prize to be won outside the EU would be lost.

Furthermore, the position of some on the issue of CE marking, regulation and the future role of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) do not make sense.

While it may be a good idea to keep a small presence with CEN, it should not be for CEN to make our rules.

I agree that the requirement to CE-mark caused many UK businesses to achieve ISO 9001 and thus improve their quality; it remains an anti-competitive EU regulation. We all know that many see the achievement of the CE mark as a measure of competence, and that only businesses with it should be considered for use. The reality is of course, that the requirement to CE-mark denies market access for some and for those who ignore it, the scorn of those who have spent vast sums to achieve it. It holds back and or prevents entrepreneurialism, innovation and business development, as they who illegally ignore it are obviously more competitive.

CE-marking may be required for exports to the EU in the future and, as exporters, we at Reidsteel will maintain it for that purpose if needed. But it should not remain a legal requirement post-Brexit for trade in our domestic market or any other market worldwide. CE-marking denotes conformity of process and adds nothing to quality or safety or suitability for purpose. It is based on an ideal trading block with a level playing field which we are leaving (the level playing field never existed). I doubt there would be any consensus for CE-marking to be mandatory for British businesses post-Brexit because anyone applying it would be at a commercial disadvantage.

As for design standards, they too must be incorporated (where needed) into a new British Standards and useful dormant British Standards should be reinstated and be maintained by the BSI. The financing of the BSI needs to change from CEN to UK Government or other UK-based funding.

Health and safety and employment regulations all need modification without detriment to workers’ rights or a relaxation of employer responsibilities to ensure a safe place of work.  We must be rid of anti-competitive regulation that does little or nothing to help UK business and their staff.