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UK government pressed to clarify post-Brexit REACH approach

Places - UK Parliament © Maurice - flickr

A House of Lords report has urged the British government to clarify "as a matter of urgency" whether it would automatically accept EU27-led chemical REACH registrations into a UK system in order to avoid a "cliff-edge" of potentially losing access to 16,000 substances.

The report, Brexit: chemical regulation, was released on 7 November following a subcommittee inquiry into the implications of Brexit for the UK’s continued participation in REACH.

If the UK government would accept such registrations, the report asked how it would address concerns over use of chemicals for which it cannot access information that supports the registration.

It also called on Whitehall "immediately to clarify" in what circumstances it would be possible for UK chemical manufacturers and importers to transfer registrations to an EU-based party before exit day. Where this is not currently possible, the government must work with Echa to enable transfers to take place, it said.

Last month, the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said companies would need to submit a "full" data package in order to register chemicals under a UK version of REACH in a no-deal Brexit scenario. It was met with disbelief from industry.

Database

Swift progress towards establishing a UK chemicals database is "crucial", the report said. It requested the government publish details of progress and set out intentions for functionality, both immediately post-Brexit and longer term.

'We have serious doubts about the government’s ability to populate a UK chemicals database with the necessary data,' House of Lords EU Energy and Environment subcommittee

"We have serious doubts about the government’s ability to populate a UK chemicals database with the necessary data," it said. Junior environment minister Thérèse Coffey’s proposal to "copy and paste" registration information from companies based in other member states is "not credible and raises serious legal concerns", it added.

The government should "as a matter of urgency" set out an alternative, "more considered" approach to securing this information, in the event consent is not granted.

What is also "extremely concerning" is that it may not be possible to establish which of the existing REACH registrations originate from UK companies. Whitehall must set out the steps it is taking to resolve this, it said.

Other issues

The report said it is also "deeply concerning" that the government "has not started making preparations" to equip a UK body responsible for regulating chemicals post-Brexit. It must also clarify means by which "independent, expert and transparent" chemical risk assessments will take place.

The subject of costs was also raised. It is unclear whether either UK- or EU-27-based companies would be charged for registering a substance with a UK REACH system. The government needs to clear up the matter and explain what steps it intends to take to "mitigate the economic impact" of the UK’s potential withdrawal from REACH, it said.

Lord Robin Teverson, chairman of the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment subcommittee which released the report, said that although it welcomes the government’s aim to remain part of the REACH system after Brexit, its negotiation red line on the UK’s membership of the single market "makes that highly unlikely".
 
That means, he added, government "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".

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