The Impact of a No-Deal Brexit on REACH and the UK Chemical Industry

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

17th July 2019

We’ve recently been looking in detail at REACH, including a general overview and introduction, a look at how REACH works, and finally a more in-depth look at the obligations of the chemical industry in meeting REACH regulations.

Firstly, a very brief reminder of what REACH is: REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It’s an EU regulation relating to the safe use of chemicals, with improving the protection of human health and the environment from risks posed by chemicals as its main objective. The important thing to note here is that it’s a European Union regulation – which means a lot of change in the event of Brexit, and especially in the event of a no-deal Brexit. So what will the impact of this be, and how will it affect the UK chemical industry?

How a No-Deal Brexit Affects REACH and the UK Chemical Industry

The impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK chemical industry

There is a lot of existing European Union law which governs the chemical industry and safeguards human and environmental health for all members of the bloc. These laws also permit chemical substances to get to market. The UK chemicals industry is of course currently regulated by this EU legislation, with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) responsible for its implementation. 

REACH is the main part of this legislation, and all companies who manufacture, sell or import chemicals into the EU must comply with REACH regulations.

How the UK Chemical Industry Will Continue to Manufacture, Sell or Import Chemicals in a No-Deal Brexit

If the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, REACH will be transferred into UK law according to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This Act and all related laws mean that REACH will continue in the UK, with necessary amends being made to ensure it works domestically rather than EU-wide as it currently is. 

The impact on REACH and the UK chemical industry on leaving the EU without a deal

Essentially, the UK chemical industry will still uphold the principles of REACH, and it will be called UK REACH. The two core principles of REACH will be adhered to:

  1. No data, no market – meaning that a chemical substance cannot be manufactured, sold or imported if there is insufficient data available
  2. Only representatives (OR) – meaning that companies based outside the UK can appoint a UK-based only representative to undertake REACH compliance responsibilities

Because there will be two sets of REACH regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit, i.e. one for the EU and one for the UK, companies will need to ensure that their chemical substances are registered with both the ECHA and the UK agency (which would be the Health & Safety Executive) so that they are able to continue or gain access to both markets.

The HSE will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating chemicals in the UK, as the ECHA currently do, in order to reduce their risks to people and the environment. They will also take registrations for new chemicals. Having this plan in place reduces the chance of negative impact on the supply of chemicals into and out of the UK. 

Implications for chemical manufacturers, suppliers, and importers

The impact on the UK's chemical industry of leaving the EU without a deal

Currently, chemical companies who manufacture, sell or import chemical substances into the EU all have different responsibilities and tasks with regards to REACH regulations. These responsibilities and tasks will change in the event of UK REACH coming into force, and in some cases the change will be significant – although they will be phased in during a set transition period so disruption is minimised and the industry can continue to function smoothly. A couple of the main changes are for:

  • Downstream users already registered – these companies will need to transfer their registration to an EEA-based organisation in order to maintain access to the EEA market
  • UK companies who import chemicals from an EEA country – these companies will need to meet new UK REACH registration requirements

There’s a full tabled summary of the changes for each company’s situation here. It’s also important to note that UK companies who currently hold REACH registrations will have these registrations transferred directly into UK REACH, and all existing full authorisations will be carried into the UK system.

This article isn’t intended as advice, and all chemical manufacturers, sellers, and importers affected should check their REACH obligations in the event of a no-deal Brexit. You will find comprehensive additional guidance from the HSE here.


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