A COALTION of European chemicals NGOs has called on politicians negotiating the terms of Brexit to allow the UK to remain bound by European chemicals legislation once it leaves the EU.
In an open letter to European leaders meeting in Brussels tomorrow, organisations representing the UK and European chemicals industry called on European leaders to allow the UK to remain within and be bound by REACH (the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals legislation) or risk creating a less competitive chemicals industry and eroding environmental protections.
Allowing the regulations to remain aligned would provide consistency for regulators and industry and ensure the development and implementation of high health, safety and environmental standards. If an alignment is not agreed, then the UK will have to implement its own chemicals database, replicating the one managed by the EU’s ECHA chemicals agency, which in turn will require chemicals companies in the UK and EU to duplicate their registrations.
“This would not only weaken the international competitiveness of both EU- and UK-based chemical companies but, more importantly, also risk divergence of health, safety and environmental levels of protection,” the letter co-signed by leaders of the UK’s Chemicals Industry Association (CIA) and CEFIC reads.
UK companies have made “major contributions” to the existing database, contributing nearly 6,000 registered substances.
They conclude: “Remaining within REACH will help to maintain high standards of protection of citizens and their environment, and ensure continuity and consistency for companies. A strong REACH is in everybody’s interest.”
Last month, the UK government outlined a framework for regulating chemicals that would seek to preserve REACH legislation as far as possible if a ‘no-deal Brexit’ occurs. This would see the HSE act as the lead regulatory authority alongside the Environment Agency. Reacting to this, ChemTRUST which co-signed today’s letter calling for alignment, warned that the UK’s plans could lead to “rapid regulatory divergence”.
The calls for alignment echo those put to UK lawmakers in March by a network of bodies representing 70,000 environmental professionals, including IChemE. On top of the concerns raised today, they warned that duplicated submissions could also increase animal testing.
Earlier this month, CIA and CEFIC published a briefing note for the chemicals industry about preparing for a future outside of REACH.
“On 17 October, you will be meeting in Brussels to attempt to make progress towards the conclusion of the Agreement on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the Declaration on the Future Relationship to ensure an orderly withdrawal with minimum disruption. A no deal Brexit would leave too little time for business to prepare and would lead to major disruptions.
Whatever shape the future relationship may eventually take, we urge you to ensure that the regulatory systems of the EU-27 and the UK remain highly aligned post-Brexit. This will not only allow for continuity and consistency for companies and regulatory bodies operating on both sides of the Channel, but also ensure a framework for the continued development and implementation of high health, safety and environmental standards.
This applies in particular to the REACH chemicals management system. Economies on both sides of the Channel have undertaken significant investments in registrations under EU-REACH; sharing information and communicating safe use in exchange for the ability to market and use chemicals in European countries, including the UK. The chemicals agency ECHA now has the world’s leading database of chemicals. The UK has made major contributions to building that database, with UK companies contributing nearly 6000 registered substances. At the same time the EU has undertaken intensive efforts to convince other countries in the world to adopt approaches similar to REACH.
If the UK is outside REACH post-Brexit this would require companies on both sides of the Channel to duplicate pre-existing registration duties for a UK-REACH. This would not only weaken the international competitiveness of both EU and UK based chemical companies but, more importantly, also risk divergence of health, safety and environmental levels of protection.
Allowing the UK to remain within (and bound by) REACH and participating in ECHA is the best solution, as long as the UK accepts the conditions set by the EU-27. This solution makes sense irrespective of the outcome of broader discussions on the UK’s position with regard to the EU single market. Remaining within REACH will help to maintain high standards of protection of citizens and their environment, and ensure continuity and consistency for companies. A strong REACH is in everybody’s interest.”
-co-signed by Marco Mensink, director General at CEFIC; Stephen Elliott, CEO of the UK Chemicals Industries Association; Michael Warhurst, executive director of CHEMTrust; and Jeremy Wates, secretary general of the European Environmental Bureau.
Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.