UK Committee Calls for Clarity on REACH

  • UK Committee Calls for Clarity on REACH  (c) Samot/ShutterstockUK Committee Calls for Clarity on REACH (c) Samot/Shutterstock

A House of Lords report has called on the UK government to urgently clarify how it intends to regulate chemicals after Brexit.

The EU Energy and Environment sub-committee said it is concerned about the lack of a credible action plan and the issue of chemical regulation should be a higher priority for the government.

While both the government and industry have stated their preference to continue to recognize Europe’s chemical legislation REACH post-Brexit, the UK government has not yet given any assurance that it would automatically accept EU registrations.

Subcommittee chairman Lord Robin Teverson said although it welcomed the government’s aim to remain part of the REACH system after Brexit, its “negotiation red line” on the UK’s membership of the single market “makes that highly unlikely”.  He added that the government “urgently needs to be working on a Plan B and that simply hasn’t happened, which leaves the sector facing a huge cliff-edge on the day we leave the EU”.

The subcommittee said UK-based chemical companies could be in danger of losing access to the EU market unless they transfer their registrations to a company or representative based in the region. However, it noted that this may not be possible before the exit date of 29 March 2019, with the possibility of the UK chemical industry potentially losing access to 16,000 substances.

According to the UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA), the cost of transferring and re-registering substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) post-Brexit could cost around £450 million.

UK chemical companies hold more than 12,000 REACH registrations (13% of the total) and exported products to the EU totaling €21 billion last year.

The report also stated a deep concern that the government has not started preparations for equipping a UK chemicals regulatory body post-Brexit.

It is asking for more information on which agency would take on the role of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) if the UK ceases to participate in REACH and how “independent, expert and transparent” chemical risk assessments would take place.

Additionally, the subcommittee cited the need for a credible plan for creating and populating a chemicals database. However, it voiced serious doubts about the government’s ability to populate a database, stating that a proposal by junior environment minister Therese Coffey to copy and paste registration information from EU-based companies was not credible and raised serious legal concerns.

Days after the report was released, the UK and the EU agreed a draft Brexit deal, which the CIA has welcomed, although details were scarce at the time of writing. ECHA, however, said it could still take until early 2019 for the agreement to be concluded and ratified by both sides. The agency has published on Nov. 14 new web pages to give advice and guide companies through the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

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