The UK House of Lords has warned of “potentially severe consequences for the chemicals sector” as the government has failed to progress “quickly enough” with preparing a post-Brexit plan for chemical regulations.
In a 7-Nov report published by the EU energy & environment sub-committee on ‘chemical regulations after Brexit’, the UK peers called on the government to “urgently explain” how its independent regulatory regime would work after the country’s planned withdrawal from EU in March 2019.
The Committee has found that UK-based chemical companies could be in danger of losing access to the EU market unless they transfer their registrations to a company or representative based in the EU.
“But this transfer may not be possible before the UK leaves the EU,” the peers noted.
The chemicals sector is the second biggest manufacturing industry in the UK, exporting £18bn (€20.6bn) of products to the EU last year.
“A delay to registration carries the risk of a trading hiatus as well as disruption to the many supply chains that rely on access to chemicals produced across the EU,” the Lords warned.
Additionally, the committee voiced its concerns over an alternative plan by the government to create its own database of chemicals approved for use in the UK.
“In evidence given to the committee the minister responsible said they planned to simply 'copy and paste' information from the EU's database, which the committee concludes is not credible and raises serious legal concerns,” the report noted.
To address the outstanding issues, the peers urged the government to put forward a “more credible” plan for collection information on chemicals and identify a UK agency that would take on the role of chemical regulation.
The agency, the peers added, should enable UK chemical businesses and SMEs to maintain their access to the EU market before the departure.
"Chemical regulation might seem like a niche area of Brexit considerations, but chemicals are used to make products that we all use every day, and the chemical sector is key to the UK's economy,” explained Lord Teverson, chairman of the sub-committee.
The UK chemicals industry is currently regulated by pan-European REACH, which combines legislation with an EU database, an EU regulator and the EU Single Market to keep us all safe.
The government has maintained that it would continue to remain part of the REACH system.
However, according to Teverson, the UK’s negotiation red line on withdrawing from the European single market makes remaining in REACH “highly unlikely”.
“That means it 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," he added.