We’re entering a New Year – and I wish you all a happy and successful one. The general election is over and done, and whoever you voted for, the Government got in. The UK leaving the European Union is now a certainty. So what happens next?
One of the benefits of the end of year break is that it gives us the chance to mull over a few things and ponder on how the future might pan out. And after walking and cycling the lanes of Dorset and Somerset . . . is that the hint of a shaft of sunlight that I see on the horizon?
At the time of writing we have no firm idea of the position that the UK government is going to take on Brexit negotiations, but the early signs are that the most fundamental of EU fundamentals is likely to be challenged; the Prime Minister has already said that there will be no continued alignment with EU standards, post-Brexit. And if that happens, then the open door for UK lighting manufacture that’s existed across the Channel for the past forty-odd years will close. Sounds like bad news, yes?
But here’s the potential for that shaft of sunlight. We’ve been sounding a constant drumbeat over the past decade about poor quality LED product entering the UK and something must be done. Ever so slowly, eyes have been opening across the construction sector, and finally seeing that the sole focus on the capex cost of equipment (and not just lighting) has had a catastrophic effect on build quality. (Ben Derbyshire, RIBA President, asked “Why can’t we build better buildings?” at Futurebuild, 2019). Perhaps – just perhaps – membership of the EU has done more to cloud the issue of quality than we’d imagined. CE marking, while being a legal requirement, is wholly discredited – and there’s little else to provide an indicator for product quality . . . until now . . . perhaps.
Clearly, we can’t rely on the UK government to maintain an open supply route to the European market. But we have an existing model that might be useful in overcoming that obstacle. UK (and EU) manufacturers who want to import into the USA know the hurdles that need to be jumped to gain access to that market; similar hurdles will become inevitable if the UK elects to diverge from EU standards. But there is a big difference here. The UK’s test metrics are currently aligned with EU standards and organisations such as BSI are already saying that its membership of ISO and IEC won’t be affected by the Brexit separation. We can make this situation work for us, though we’ll probably need to get together to build a robust platform for the UK manufacturing sector (and not just lighting).
For the home market, if the intention of the UK government is to relax standards so that poor quality product is legitimised for use in the UK then we (that’s all of us who can influence the supply chain) can require that all products are built to the higher quality standards required by the EU. Clauses can be written into project briefs and specifications.
For the European market, we will need a new system of reporting for product testing that is acceptable to the EU. It’ll have to be voluntary, but I can’t see why the EU wouldn’t respond positively to that kind of initiative. After all, the infrastructure is already in place.
Here’s an opportunity to close the door on the bad stuff. Perversely, Brexit could be just the thing to provide us with the impetus that leads to ‘better buildings’.
Who’d have thought it?