House of Lords report is urging the UK government to clarify how it intends to regulate chemicals after Brexit as the country can potentially losing access to 16,000 substances.
In its "Brexit and chemicals regulation (REACH)" report, the EU Energy and Environment sub-committee is calling for the government to provide some answers on its present lack of progress. It is seeking explanations on how an independent regulatory regime would work, a credible plan for creating and populating a chemicals database, the identity of a UK chemicals regulator and how UK chemical companies can maintain their access to the EU market post-Brexit.
The subcommittee said UK firms could be in danger of losing market access to the EU unless they transfer their registrations to a company or representative based in the region. This may not be possible before the exit date of 29 March 2019. If this remains the case, then the subcommittee said the government must work with the European Chemicals Agency to enable transfers to take place.
Subcommittee chairman Robin Teverson said although it welcomed the government’s aim to remain part of the REACH system after Brexit, its “negotiation red line” on the UK’s membership of the single market “makes that highly unlikely.” He added that the government “urgently needs to be working on a plan B and that simply hasn’t happened, which leaves the sector facing a huge cliff-edge on the day we leave the EU.”
The subcommittee wants the government to make clear immediately whether it would automatically accept EU-led registrations and, if so, how it would address concerns relating to any chemicals for which it cannot access the supporting information.
Although swift progress towards setting up a UK chemicals database is crucial, the report raised serious doubts about the government’s ability to populate such a system. It said a proposal by junior environment minister Therese Coffey to copy and paste registration information from EU-based companies was not credible and raised serious legal concerns, including over copyright and data protection.
The report also stated its deep concern that the government has not started preparations for equipping a UK body for regulating chemicals post-Brexit. It said clarification was required as to which agency will take on ECHA's role if the UK ceases to participate in REACH.
Clarification on costs was also sought as the subcommittee said it was unclear whether UK- or EU-based companies would be charged for registering a substance with the UK system.
The subcommittee warned that the government’s lack of progress to date and a credible plan of action could have potentially severe consequences for the UK chemicals industry, resulting in a trading hiatus and disruption to the many supply chains that rely on access to chemicals produced across the EU.