The process of the UK leaving the European Union is one that will undoubtedly affect us all. It will change many of the ways that the UK operates, both internally and externally with the rest of the world. But how will it affect fire safety laws?
Will fire safety regulations be impacted?
The truth, at least initially, not at all. Due to the nature and importance of fire safety regulations, there is no likely reason why this should change as a result of Brexit.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 outlines set standards for England and Wales. They are a part of UK legislation and thus, are not linked to EU laws or regulations. In fact, the UK is one of the global leaders for fire safety and will strive to continue its position following Brexit.
The BSI has also stated that it is their ambition, and confident expectation, for the UK to continue to participate in the creation and improving with building standards through CEN and CENELEC.
Throughout the EU, regulations vary greatly among the Member States and therefore, Brexit should have no impact on the UK’s fire safety.
A time for doing more
There has been much attention given to the UK leaving the EU and how this will affect manufacturing processes, laws and certification of products. This, in addition to the recent fire tragedy at Grenfell Tower has highlighted the need to “change the culture away from one of doing the minimum required for compliance, to one of taking ownership and responsibility for delivering a safe system throughout the life cycle of a building” (Dame Judith Hackitt, of The Hackitt Review).
Will EN standards still be appropriate?
As acknowledged, the UK will continue to be a full member of the European standards' bodies and so will continue to adopt European normalised standards as National standards. Leaving the EU will not affect the process of EN standards as this standard body is completely independent of EU laws.
But, what about CE marking?
CE marking shows that a product has been manufactured according to the defined legal requirements of the EU. They are required for products which are sold within the European Economic Area.
Therefore, all CE rules will continue to apply until the UK has formally left the single market. After this, the UK may still continue to be a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) if they can join the agreement of 1994 which gave Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein permission to trade in the EU without needing membership. There are also other countries outside of the EEA – Turkey and Iceland – where CE marking applies to certain product groups.
In addition, as the majority of the detailed design measures for CE marked products come from standards, there should be little change to how fire safety equipment is certified. There will always be a need for UK legislation to retain the high standard of fire safety equipment and since CE marking has been approved for at least 20 more years throughout Europe, it is likely that the UK will be able to choose to continue to use this system to ensure we maintain product safety.
Life after Brexit
The UK has played a significant part in EU regulations and it will not want to see this work undone when it formally leaves the EU. Instead of Brexit reducing the level of regulations and standards we have in the UK, it is instead a good opportunity to review, act and improve on our fire safety regulations.