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Chemical industry: ‘greater consensus needed’ as Brexit talks begin

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The UK’s chemical industry has called for broad agreement on Brexit priorities as formal talks between EU and UK negotiators got underway in Brussels this week.

At its council meeting on 15 June, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) called for a "greater consensus" to deliver a solution and reconfirmed its commitment to: 

  • tariff-free access to the single market and the prevention of non-tariff barriers to trade;
  • regulatory continuity and consistency; and
  • access to appropriately skilled people.

CIA and the Chemical Business Association had previously said that the UK prime minister’s failure to secure a majority for her Conservative party at the general election on 8 June could mean a ‘soft’ Brexit is more likely.

A ‘soft’ Brexit, they say, might mean the UK retains access to the EU single market, the Customs Union and free movement of skilled labour. This contrasts with the ‘hard’ Brexit the prime minister set out prior to the general election, in which she said the UK would leave the market and not pursue full membership of the Customs Union.

CIA said that the unstable political situation presents "an opportunity to reposition" the UK’s approach, "encouraging greater predictability" for business and employment during the transition period.

"More specifically, we believe that staying in the single market for that period would help support trade, investment, jobs and overall economic growth in the critical time taking us to exit from the EU and our future new trading relationship," CIA said.

At Cefic’s annual REACH forum earlier this week, CIA’s REACH executive Silvia Segna said the status of existing REACH registration is the "main issue" for the industry.

Negotiators began formal talks on 19 June and a day later the government set out seven Brexit bills. These include the so-called Great Repeal Bill to convert the body of EU law into UK law, and new bills on trade and customs to implement an independent policy to help exports outside the Union. 

NGO risk tracker

Meanwhile, Greener UK, a coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, has launched a ‘Brexit risk tracker’ and has identified chemicals policy as an area "most at risk".

It says that Thérèse Coffey, the minister responsible for REACH chemicals policy, "suggested weakening" EU laws in her evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the future of environmental law and policy following the EU Referendum.

Greener UK also says it is "not possible" for the UK to copy REACH and the country is very unlikely to have the capacity to create a domestic equivalent because it lacks "any sensible method" of doing so.

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