UK must remain within REACH as it exits EU

Article by Adam Duckett

IChemE supports calls for continued integration, but EU position casts doubt

ICHEME has backed calls for the UK to remain within the EU’s chemicals regulation (REACH) despite leaving the EU. Failing to do so will harm industry, the economy, public health, the environment and animal welfare.

IChemE has co-signed a briefing paper sent to UK lawmakers who are debating the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Written by the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), a network of bodies representing 70,000 environmental professionals, the paper urges lawmakers to secure a binding commitment from the government that the UK remains part of the European Chemical Agency.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said, at the beginning of March, that she wants to explore with the EU the option of the UK remaining part of EU agencies that are critical for industry, directly referencing the chemicals sector and the European Chemicals Agency. 


Will Pope, chair of the Environmental Policy Forum, warned in a letter sent to UK lawmakers of the consequences of the UK failing to agree to stay within the EU chemical regime (REACH) and having to create an equivalent system.

“A separate system – a British REACH (‘BREACH’) – without access to the existing database of chemical safety information would be very expensive...both for government and for the chemical industry,” Pope said.

“Not only would the need to generate repeat safety information be expensive, it could also require significant duplication of animal testing...The UK would also lose access to the combined scientific expertise in the EU Member States, as well as losing influence on future scientific and policy development in this area.”

In turn, a separate system would lead to barriers to trade in chemicals and pharmaceuticals, harming sectors that account for 10% of manufacturing and are the UK’s largest exporters. There could be delays and blockages in cross-border supply chains as chemicals and the components they make can cross the UK-EU border several times as they are processed and assembled.

The importance of remaining in REACH is not just a UK/EU has become a global standard setter

“The importance of remaining in REACH is not just a UK/EU issue; across the world, manufacturers exporting into the EU are bound by REACH – it has become a global standard setter. It also ensures the safe management of these chemicals when products and materials are recycled or disposed of at end-of-life. Remaining in REACH is, therefore, critical for future UK trade and for the protection of the UK economy, our public health, the environment and animal welfare.”

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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