The UK is no longer seeking associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) or participation in the EU REACH regulation after it departs the EU next year. Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), confirmed this in a letter to the chair of the state watchdog the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).
This means that the UK will have its own regulatory framework post-Brexit. As Pow states, the government assumes that the transition to UK REACH will take some adjustment, but that the benefits of controlling their own legislation will outweigh the costs.
The UK’s Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) had hoped to remain tied to REACH. The chemicals sector is among the industries with the least to gain from any deviation from EU norms. This is because the sector is very tightly regulated, and 60 % of the UK’s chemicals exports flow to the EU. It is, therefore, of central importance that a future agreement remains closely linked to the REACH chemicals regulation, they think.
The UK government has stated that the EU REACH registration data can be transferred to the local system. It is currently assumed that the registration costs will be the same as for EU REACH. But the players will gain access to a much smaller market. BASF, for example, has estimated that it would have to register 1,300 substances under UK REACH, compared with 2,000 for the EU as a whole. Currently, there are an estimated 700 chemicals used by British companies that are not produced domestically.
British legislators have so far rejected offers from the European Commission to extend the Brexit transition period because of the coronavirus pandemic. This means that the country will become independent of EU law on January 1, 2021.
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