We can look back to 2015 and say that on balance it was a reasonable year for our board manufacturing members. There was growth across a number of market sectors which on the back of improving housing starts carried through most of the year.

It wasn’t all rosy though since the currency and overcapacity in mainland Europe also fuelled increased imports that tempered performance particularly in OSB markets.

Going forward though you would need a crystal ball to forecast how 2016 will end up.

At best it might be ‘steady as she goes’ but with so much turmoil in the global economy this could be very wide of the mark.

Another uncertainty that no one can predict an outcome is that of a potential No vote in the EU referendum, which could potentially be held this year. I’ll leave pronouncing on the merits or otherwise of leaving the EU to others but rather consider just one aspect, that of standards and regulation.

The transition from British to European Standards was a long and at times tortuous process which involved a new way of working and engaging with other European partners.

The European standardization and regulatory process is built around consensus rather than being adversarial and as such to promote any given position requires building partnerships and alliances.

From a single market perspective and the removal of trade barriers, European standardization is an essential linchpin upon which the business community has invested hugely with time, research and testing. The prize however was obvious, having common standardization has in the long run reduced cost, removed barriers and opened access to markets. Before we start to dust off the archived copies of BS1142 or BS5669 just in case of a vote to leave, one needs to ask, what would be the benefit of going backwards?

On the regulatory side there are of course frustrations. In the panel sector the Industrial Emissions Directive and the corresponding European Best Available Techniques reference document (BREF) has thrown up a number of headaches for many of the board manufacturers across the EU.

But as with European standardization most of these problems are largely associated with the transition from national systems to a common EU system.

By the first revision of the BREF in six years’ time, we may look back and start to recognise more of the benefits of a system intended to drive environmental improvement.

As an organisation with a keen interest in renewable energy policy and particularly that which drives wood to energy, it is tempting to blame all our concerns on Brussels and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) but actually we’d be wrong.

The Directive only sets out targets, the actual choice of policy measures to address the targets set are very much the making of the national legislators. In or out of the EU, trade will need to continue and the climate and energy security drivers will remain as will the need to have policies, regulations and standards to address them.