UK government releases document on chemical regulation in case of no-deal Brexit

Article by Amanda Doyle

THE UK government has outlined a framework for regulating chemicals if a no-deal Brexit occurs, saying that it would preserve the EU’s chemical regulations “as far as possible”.

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is the main piece of EU legislation regarding regulating chemicals. It requires chemicals to be registered prior to being placed on the market, and also has additional regulatory controls on hazardous chemicals. The government published numerous documents on 24 September detailing how a no-deal Brexit would affect different sectors, including one on REACH from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra said that the UK would preserve the REACH legislation as far as possible in the event of no deal and that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would act as the lead UK regulatory authority alongside the Environmental Agency. Plans are also being drawn up for a UK IT system for the registration of new chemicals, similar to the existing EU system.

However, companies registered with REACH would no longer have access to the European Economic Area (EAA) market without first transferring their registrations to an EEA-based organisation. Downstream companies importing chemicals from the EEA would also have new registration requirements.

Guy Lougher, Brexit specialist at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “Because effecting such registration changes will take time, in addition to costs, this puts pressure on UK companies holding REACH registrations, if they have not already done so, to consider beginning now the process of transferring their registrations, rather than waiting to see if a no-deal outcome can be averted."

CHEM Trust, a UK charity working in chemicals safety, expressed concern over the policy. It said that the document does not outline effective methods for stakeholders and others to oversee the process of registering chemicals, noting that the new agency could become a “secretive quango”. The current EU law has several layers of oversight where stakeholders can participate and challenge decisions.

Michael Warhurst, executive director of CHEM Trust, said:

“The creation of a new UK ‘chemical agency’ with no commitment to follow EU decisions on controlling chemicals is a development of great concern to CHEM Trust. This could lead to rapid regulatory divergence post Brexit, whereby the UK may not ban future chemicals of concern in parallel with the EU. We are unconvinced that the proposed approach will provide a high level of protection for human health and the environment, and whether it is even feasible for the UK to build a comprehensive chemical safety database based on these plans.”

The full report can be read here:

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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