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The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (“EAC”) publishes report on The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum

  • United Kingdom
  • Brexit
  • Environment

04-05-2017

On 29 April 2017 the EAC published its second report examining areas where the Government must ensure the environment is considered during Brexit negotiations. The announcement of the June 2017 general election prevented preparation of a full report. However, the EAC identified several key messages for the Government.

  • The EU chemicals regulatory framework established through REACH will be difficult to transpose into UK law on Brexit. REACH is based on participants being within the EU, with Member State co-operation and mutual obligations, oversight and controls to enable free movement of products around the EU.
  • The Government must urgently clarify their position on the future regulatory framework including the validity of current REACH registrations. The REACH 2018 registration deadline represents significant costs to industry but there is uncertainty over the validity of these registrations post-Brexit. The concern is that this may already be having an impact on companies’ long-term investment decisions.
  • The Government should attempt to negotiate continued involvement in the REACH registration process as a minimum. Most respondents to the inquiry wanted to stay as closely aligned with REACH as possible. The registration of chemicals is the most important element to enable access to the single market, ensuring data and cost sharing continued and preventing double registration.
  • The cost of a UK stand-alone chemicals framework would be expensive. Government has admitted that the cost of assuming the roles currently provided by ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, could be in the ‘tens of millions’.
  • The introduction in the US of an improved system of chemicals regulation may prove useful to the Government as it plans the UK’s approach. Whilst there are no plans to align these regimes, US experiences may be helpful.

A link to the full report can be found here.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the EAC, expressed disappointment that whilst the Government has admitted that it will be difficult to convert regulations such as REACH into UK law, it has not yet offered its vision for the replacement. Government needs to ensure it understands the complexity and importance of current regulations in enabling the UK chemicals industry to provide not only value to the economy but their expertise and high standards in protecting public health and the environment.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Partner, Eversheds Sutherland, who gave oral evidence to the EAC commented that

The EAC has recognised the challenges for the chemicals industry and has clearly articulated the key concerns. As the Brexit clock ticks away, these issues are likely to move up the agenda. It’s possible that a transitional period post Brexit, with some ongoing access to ECHA for a period, may be part of the negotiation with the EU. The priority for businesses is to consider now how Brexit may affect their products and supply chain. Any business preparing to REACH register substances before the May 2018 REACH registration deadline should review their strategy and look to build as much flexibility as possible into their data access arrangements.”

 

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