Brexit: chemical regulation Contents


Although chemical regulation may seem like a niche area of Brexit considerations, chemicals are key components in products that we all use every day, and the UK exported £18 billion of chemicals to the EU in 2017. Both the chemical industry and the many supply chains that rely on it could be strongly affected if Brexit disrupts current arrangements. It is vital for both human and environmental health that these substances are regulated safely after Brexit, and in a way that allows chemical trade between the UK and EU to continue.

There is agreement between the Government, industry and NGOs that the UK’s continued participation in REACH, the main system of EU chemical regulation, and continued membership of the European Chemicals Agency would be the best Brexit outcome. However, it is far from certain that this is a possibility. As a result, there is a lot that the Government must do to prepare for the UK’s potential withdrawal from REACH. This includes:

  • clarifying its intended approach to chemical regulation in the future;
  • creating and populating a database of chemicals;
  • preparing a UK body to take on the role of chemical regulation in a way that is independent, transparent and scientifically robust;
  • enabling businesses, including small businesses, to take pre-emptive action to maintain valid registrations for the EU market; and
  • mitigating the economic impact on the chemical industry that would result from leaving the EU system.

None of these actions is easy or quick to accomplish.

We were concerned by the Minister’s response to these issues: we are not convinced that the Government’s preparations are progressing quickly enough, and in some respects the Government appears to lack a credible plan of action. This is highly troubling, given the cliff-edge that the sector is facing, and we believe the issue of chemical regulation post-Brexit should be a higher priority for Government.

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