UK Chemicals Seek Post-Brexit Clarity
The UK chemical industry is seeking clarity on the future of chemicals regulation after Brexit. In a recent report, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee called on the government to urgently provide certainty on how the industry will be regulated.
Although Westminster has admitted it will be difficult to transpose regulations such as REACH into UK law,” it has not yet offered a vision for the replacement,” said the committee’s chair, Mary Creagh. “The timing of Brexit means that companies face significant costs to comply with EU regulations before we leave, with no guarantee that investment will be useful to them in the future,” she noted.
According to the report, UK-based companies will have spent an estimated £250 million to comply with the REACH deadline of May 2018, but as yet have received no guarantees over whether these registrations will still be valid after when the UK finds itself outside the EU.
The uncertainty, the committee said, has led one in five companies to seek a new base outside Britain, costing the country jobs and investment, and this uncertainty may already be having an impact on companies’ long-term investment decisions.
In the legislators’ view, in deciding the future of the UK's relationship with the EU's single market for chemicals, the government should take a pragmatic approach. They stressed that the most important element of REACH, which the UK at minimum “should seek to remain involved in,” is the registration process for chemicals.
Most stakeholders who made submissions to the committee, from both environmental and industry perspectives, the report said, want the country to remain “as closely aligned to REACH as possible.” It said Involvement in registration would allow UK companies to share testing data with EU players, sharing costs and allowing them to enter the market without double registration, even if the UK adopts higher standards of chemicals protection – which many observers see as unlikely.
The audit committee said it believes establishing a stand-alone UK system of chemicals regulation is likely to be very expensive for both taxpayers and industry. While the UK government has not provided details of its scenario planning, it has acknowledged that the cost of creating a national equivalent of the European Chemicals Agency could range into the “tens of millions” of pounds, the committee said.