The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum: Government Response to the Committee’s Eleventh Report of Session 2016–17

First Special Report

The Environmental Audit Committee published its Eleventh Report of Session 2016–17, on The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum, HC 912 on 29 April 2017. The Government’s response was received on 18 July 2017 and is appended to this report.

Appendix: Government response

The Government thanks the Committee for its report on the Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum.

The chemicals sector is a priority for the Government, being one of the largest manufacturing export sectors by value (£9.94bn GVA), with annual turnover of £30bn and exports of £24.9bn. As stated in our written response to the inquiry, the key issues as we prepare to leave the EU are:

We believe it is in the interests of the EU and the UK to continue cooperation in the regulation of chemicals.

Recommendation: The chemicals regulation framework established by the EU through REACH would be difficult to transpose directly into UK law;

The government will use the Repeal Bill (The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill) to convert EU law into UK law and use the powers to amend REACH, as well as other related chemicals regulation to make them work properly in the UK.

Recommendation: Companies face significant uncertainty over the validity of current REACH registrations after the UK leaves the EU: the Government must clarify their position on the future regulatory framework as a matter of urgency

The Government recognises the costs that industry has already invested to comply with EU legislation and the status of existing or future REACH registrations made by UK-based companies are a key consideration.

We have been listening to what businesses and others have been telling us about their concerns for the future and the potential impacts and opportunities of EU Exit, and will continue do so.

As with other EU legislation we will remain bound by REACH until the point of exit. This includes the legal obligation on UK-based businesses to register substances manufactured or imported in the 1–100t tonnage band by the May 2018 deadline. We are therefore continuing our drive, through the HSE, to raise awareness of this deadline and encourage registration.

The UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum has also published guidance to help and support industry, in particular SMEs and downstream users, to meet this obligation

Recommendation: In deciding the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU’s single market for chemicals, the Government should take a pragmatic approach. The most important element of REACH, which the Government should seek to remain involved in as a minimum, is the registration process for chemicals

REACH is a single market measure so any company wanting to place products on the EU market will still have to use REACH, whatever our future relationship with the EU. We intend to achieve a satisfactory outcome for the UK and EU chemicals sector on registration, regulation and trade.

Recommendation: Establishing a fully stand-alone system of chemicals regulation for the UK is likely to be expensive for both the taxpayer and for industry

The costs required to implement any post-exit UK regulatory framework will be affected by many factors, including negotiations, and it would not be appropriate to pre-judge their outcome.

Recommendation: The experiences of the US as it introduces an improved system of chemicals regulation could be useful for the Government when planning the UK’s approach

Our priority will be to make sure that chemicals continue to be effectively and safely managed, as well as encouraging the continued growth of the UK’s chemical industry. In doing this, we will need to reflect the future trade relationship between the UK and EU and our ambitions in other international markets, while minimising disruption to complex import/export supply chains.

We are therefore looking into how chemicals are regulated in a number of different non-EU countries as part of considering options for developing the UK’s regulatory regime in the longer term.

26 September 2017