EU framework legislation ensures the safety of consumer products across the EU. The standards that underpin the legislation ensure a level playing field for business and acceptable levels of safety and product performance for consumers, wherever they purchase their products within the EU. No such comparable legislation exists for the safety of services, leading to legal uncertainty as well as to business and consumer detriment. Whilst consumers find the services situation unacceptable, we can be confident of two things: Firstly, consumers products complying with EU legislation and standards are generally safe across the EU, and secondly, that the European Commission is working to improve the safety of services, although Member States are slow to recognise the benefits to business and consumers from the harmonisation of rules.
How will Brexit affect this dynamic? To trade within the EU British products will need to meet the EU legal requirements and standards. If the UK rules diverge from these requirements we shall no longer be able to sell into the EU without additional costs, and may end up with a series of different rules for different markets and further additional costs to meet these differing standards. Applied to the consumer product sectors, divergence will add to UK business costs. This needs to be avoided.
In the services sectors where improvements can be expected within the EU, the UK will not have a seat at the EU table to influence legislative improvements as they develop. This could disadvantage UK businesses and add costs due to our lack of influence.
Recourse to international standards (ISO/IEC) will mitigate these costs to some extent but will not fully compensate for the loss of influence at European level.