BS EN Standards and Brexit

Before I headed off to a week’s worth of U.S. and International standards meetings in Chicago earlier this month, I spoke with one of our Document Center customers.  What question came up yet again?  What’s the status with BS EN Standards and Brexit!  This was one of my top questions for my friends from the U.K. and Europe and I expected a definitive answer.  But no!  The way forward is still murky.

As expected, the official BSI (British Standards Institute) position has been that continued involvement with CEN and CENELEC is not in question.  However, there are some increasing concerns on the horizon.  These concerns will not make themselves evident until the shape of the political solution becomes more clear.

Here is the problem.  The rules of CEN and CENELEC have certain requirements for National Standards Bodies (NSBs), one of which differs slightly in the three official national language editions of the rules.  BSI has been reading this rule to mean that they could continue to the the U.K. National Standards Body (NSB) even without membership in either the EU or the Efta/EEA (the trade focused auxillary body that allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate).  Now it is starting to look like this will not work.  Revision of the rules may be necessary.  And any change requires a yes vote by 100% of the CEN/CENELEC membership.

This could mean trouble for BSI.   The fallback position would be to move to the adoption of ISO and IEC standards, counting on equivalence to pave the way for smooth trade with the continent.  Meantime, a host of questions immediately come up.  Who would be responsible for the official English language editions of the EN’s?  Would existing copies of the BS EN standards remain valid or be withdrawn?  OK, this could be a major headache for all involved.

Meantime, there are wider issues at hand for the U.K. regarding trade and technical specifications and standards.  To learn more about considerations being reviewed within the U.K., take a look at this interesting paper.  It’s Brexit Paper 14 generated by the Bar Council Brexit Working Group.  you’ll come away with the distinct impression that this has all opened up quite a can of worms!

Here at Document Center Inc., we’ll try to avoid the whiplash that comes with making predictions regarding “soft” and “hard” Brexit.  Even the British themselves will not know how this story ends until a political solution becomes clear.  The fate of BS EN Standards and Brexit itself still remain to be seen!

If you need to purchase EN standards, take a look at the Document Center webstore at  You will find a number of national editions of the various publications.  All are valid for your organization.  Any further questions?  Just get in touch with myself or our staff by phone (650-591-7600) or email (  Thank you.

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Claudia Bach

Claudia Bach is the President of Document Center Inc. and a world-wide recognized expert on Standards and Standards Distribution. You can connect with her on Google+

5 thoughts on “BS EN Standards and Brexit”

  1. Thanks to my colleague Andrea Beddard-Smith of BSS (the British Standards Society — the U.K. standards users body) for clarifying a number of points in this post. She also points out that BSI is “a major contributor to CEN-CENELEC both financially and by engagement in its activities – holding a large number of secretariats (80).” This is one reason why BSI is so keen to keeping an active role in these organizations. Appreciate the assistance, Andrea!

  2. Thank you so much, Andrea:
    We in the States do not fully understand the sovereignty issues at stake regarding Brexit, particularly in the area of construction regulation. I understand that there is an on-going debate in the UK with regards to the use of less-stringent EU regulations and standards, a legacy of the intense political compromises required during the set-up of the EU standards system. This article raises the issue yet again, this time in the shadow of a tragedy. Thanks so much for pointing it out.

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