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Brexit and EU Harmonised Standards – an Introduction

As it stands, the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 (as a consequence of invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on 29 March 2017 by the UK government), when the period for negotiating a withdrawal agreement will end unless an extension is agreed. The so-called “Great Repeal Bill” (which would repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and converge in UK law all enactments previously in force under EU law), subsequently renamed the European Union (Withdrawal) bill,  was introduced to the House of Commons on 13 July 2017 and became law in June 2018.

This Act inter alia legislates for formal incorporation of up to 20,000 pieces of EU law onto the UK by:

– conversion of directly applicable EU Regulations into the UK law

– preservation of laws that have been made in the UK in order to implement its obligations imposed onto the UK as a consequence of its EU membership, and

– continuing to make available in the UK those rights enshrined in the EU treaties, that are relied upon directly in court

One of the areas of a particular regulatory concern in this regard is the situation with EU standards, or more precisely – EU Harmonised Standards, which set benchmarks for the safety and quality of products and services across multiple sectors —from energy and healthcare to transport — to protect consumers and facilitate cross-border trade.

As stated on the DG GROWTH website,

“A harmonised standard is a European standard developed by a recognised European Standards Organisation: CEN, CENELEC, or ETSI. It is created following a request from the European Commission to one of these organisations. Manufacturers, other economic operators, or conformity assessment bodies can use harmonised standards to demonstrate that products, services, or processes comply with relevant EU legislation.

The references of harmonised standards must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The purpose of this website is to provide access to the latest lists of references of harmonised standards and other European standards published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU)”[1].

There are currently 33 areas for regulating production of goods and performance of services in the EU covered by Harmonised Standards approach.

And whereas the above-mentioned European Union (Withdrawal) bill may preserve those EU standards applicable in the UK, it will not necessarily be reciprocal for British standards being valid or accepted throughout the EU after the 29 March 2017, as the UK will become a so-called ‘third country’ overnight.

In the subsequent chapters we will analyze various approaches and scenarios and will attempt to make suggestions as how to achieve a workable modus operandi, without holding a discussion over the merits or demerits of UK membership of the EU.



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