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No-deal Brexit: industry alliance warns of £1bn REACH data cost

Brexit - mind the gap © bluedesign -

The total cost for companies submitting full data packages for UK REACH under a no-deal Brexit scenario could be as much as £1bn (€1.13bn), a major chemical industry alliance estimated.

And, in a letter to junior environment minister Thérèse Coffey, the Alliance of Chemical Associations (ACA) says this would come "on top of the significant investment already made in gathering information on safe use of chemicals".

The UK parliament is due to vote on the withdrawal agreement on 11 December, with many MPs saying they will reject the deal. If it fails to pass this would make the no-deal scenario a real possibility.

The confidential letter, seen by Chemical Watch, strongly urges the government to "reconsider" the plan for full data packages, announced by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to widespread disbelief at a meeting in London in October.

The ACA’s members represent 1,300 UK companies contributing an estimated £42bn to the UK economy.

"It is not possible to overstate how serious we consider this to be," says the ACA letter. Dated 31 October, it was sent almost a month before the government agreed a draft withdrawal deal and a draft non-binding political declaration on its future trading relationship with the EU.

The ACA says UK businesses have invested heavily in data supporting their existing REACH registrations, and "having to repeat that exercise, which would involve negotiating access to data and related legal contracts, will be a significant challenge" considering there are more than 12,000 UK registrations.

Many UK registration holders do not have access to the full data package, the letter says. They may be able to gain permission to use the study summaries, but this generates "a very significant" cost, estimated at €70,000 per mid-tier substance, "and at worst duplication of testing, possibly including animal testing".

Such duplication, or the acceptance of incomplete datasets, would "severely compromise" the validity of the entire exercise and is "completely at odds" with one of the fundamental principles of REACH, the letter adds.

Notwithstanding this, it continues, the two-year timeframe Defra has proposed for submitting this data is "unrealistic" considering that REACH registrations spanned ten years. "The scale of the task and the related timeframe are simply not feasible."

Deep concerns

The letter expresses "deep concerns" over Defra's plans for implementing a UK REACH, which it says will weaken the UK's competitiveness and stifle innovation.

The high cost and resource commitment "will do nothing to improve our environment" and may well result in a reduction in the number of substances manufactured and traded in the UK", the letter says. It urges Defra to consider "a more efficient and proportionate option".

Other concerns include:

  • Defra's proposal for legally ‘grandfathering’ UK registrations;
  • the timescale allowed for this process being "too short" considering that in a no-deal scenario companies will have to prioritise day-to-day operations;
  • the "huge number" of UK SMEs and downstream users that would potentially become importers and register under UK REACH; and
  • "inconsistencies" in the government's no-deal plans for chemicals, biocides and pesticides.

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