From health and safety, energy and environmental performance to product specifications and testing, there are many construction standards and regulations that are harmonised throughout Europe in order to deliver consistent levels of quality and safety in construction. However, since the UK’s decision to leave the EU, many people have been questioning how this will affect construction regulations and what the impact will be for product standards in the roofing and façades sector.
At the moment, until Article 50 has been triggered and the detail behind the post Brexit agreement has been negotiated, there are still areas of uncertainty. However, when it comes to product standards, the short answer is that there is unlikely to be much difference, certainly not in the short term anyway.
In addition to British Standards, the British Standards Institution (BSI) is responsible for overseeing the adoption of European (EN) and International (ISO) standards in the UK. As such, it is a member of both the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Standards approved by CEN must be adopted as national standards by all 33 members, including non EU countries like Norway and Switzerland.
The decision by the UK to leave the EU could have an impact on the BSI’s eligibility to participate in CEN and this depends to some extent on the shape of the post Brexit agreement negotiated by the Government.
It is somewhat complicated but in its paper ‘European Standards and the UK’, the BSI explains some of the post Brexit scenarios. Essentially if the UK becomes part of the European Free Trade Association, like Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, or signs the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, then there will be minimal impact. However, if we exit the EU without a trade agreement, then BSI would need to try and secure the UK’s continued membership of CEN. It is likely that they would need to commit to the adoption of all European Standards in order to do this – so either way it is unlikely that there will be any changes to our adoption of European Standards in the UK, particularly as we need to comply with them in order to trade and export to EU countries.
As Duncan King, technical manager from the Construction Products Association, explained: “On the standardization process, it is essential for BSI to maintain its full membership of CEN so that the UK can continue to influence the European standards writing process. The easiest way for this to happen is for the UK to re-join EFTA, as membership of CEN requires countries to have membership of either the EU or EFTA. If the Brexit agreement negotiated by the British Government did not involve EFTA membership, then BSI would need to argue for a change in the CEN statutes enabling a non-EFTA country to gain membership of the European standards writing body.”
Impact on BS 5534
Another area that people have asked about is the impact on BS 5534 because part of the reason it was brought in was to bring us in line with Eurocodes in respect to the calculation of wind loads on tiles and slates. We spoke to John Dodd, Chairman of the BSI committee B/ 542/1 that drafted the revised BS 5534 standard. He said: “Brexit won’t impact on BS 5534 or BS 8001 and BS 5250 because they are all British Standards Codes of Practice. So nothing will change when it comes to the actual practical application of roofing and the high standards of workmanship expected in the UK.”
Ian Henning, technical manager from the NFRC agreed: “The Codes of Practice – which are national workmanship standards, rather than EU product standards, were developed by the roofing industry in the UK.National Building Regulations / Standards refer to these COPs and will not be affected by Brexit. However the BS-ENs are a bit of an unknown in the long term.”
Indeed, those Directives and Regulations in the UK that have come from the EU fall into more of a grey area. Three examples of this are the Construction Products Regulations (CPR), which introduced mandatory CE marking in 2013, the CDM Regulations and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
As part of the Brexit process, the UK Government will need to review the thousands of regulations that have been brought about as a result of European Directives and European Regulations and decide which ones they want to keep. No doubt things like CE marking and the CDM Regulations will be part of this process, so at the moment no-one can say with certainty what will happen.
However, CE marking was introduced as part of the CPR for products which conform to a harmonised European technical specification, so while the UK Government could make changes, it does seem unlikely, given that we need to continue to export products to the rest of the EU.
As a result of Brexit, the UK should have more flexibility on what regulations it chooses to introduce or standards it adopts for the benefit of our own construction sector. As a country we need to commit to continuing our pioneering role in the global construction industry, from being the first to implement new technology like BIM to developing sustainable building practices. The UK is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to the quality, safety and environmental performance of our construction products and it will continue to do so regardless of the terms of Brexit.
For the moment though, it is business as usual until Article 50 is triggered, and throughout the two-year negotiation period the UK continues to be a full member of the EU and is therefore required to abide by all of the EU treaties and laws.
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Useful source: http://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/about-bsi/uk-national-standards-body/EUReferendum/