Brexit: REACH in UK on Shaky Foundations

A hard Brexit would mean the end of REACH in England. That’s the finding recently given by chemical compliance expert Riku Rinta-Jouppi at a summit meeting in Brussels sponsored by Chemical Watch. Representatives of the chemicals industry in England clearly want to ensure access to the EU market, which is why they are strongly advocating compliance with REACH even after Brexit goes into effect. However, an exit would mean that all the REACH registrations of English companies would no longer be legally valid. According to Rinta-Jouppi, all registrations flow through the ECHA; they cannot exist independently of the ECHA.

The departure from Europe dashes the hopes of the British Chemical Industries Association (CIA). After all, say the leaders of the CIA, British companies have already submitted 5,500 registrations for 2,250 substances. The British government must now ensure that these registrations do not expire. A Plan B that would distribute all registrations submitted by UK companies to sole representatives in the EU is the last and least-desirable solution.

As one option, the British government can adopt EU law and UK law, but representatives of the CIA doubt that such an approach can work in the short time available. A second option would be to retain the EU regulations until a trading agreement with the EU has been negotiated and approved.

However, chemicals management does not seem to be the highest priority of many English chemical companies. A survey of 120 company representatives indicated that only 20% put the topic at the top of their agenda. Energy and climate policies were rated as more important. Tony Bastock, a member of the CIA Brexit Task Force, reported on the results of another survey at a CIA conference held in mid-November. It’s concerning, says Bastock, that 13% of the companies surveyed are considering halting production in England. See Exiting the European Union for an overview of how the CIA views the situation after Brexit.

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