A Valentine's Day short on chemistry

Lesley Taylor Addmaster
Written by Lesley Taylor
Regulatory Affairs Manager

Lesley Taylor is an expert on regulatory affairs for the biocides sector and is a member of BACS (British Association of Chemical Specialities). She also sits on the BSI (British Standards Institute) representing the British Plastics Federation and is a member of the Cross Sector Preservatives Group. These are her thoughts on the UK industry landscape post-Brexit.

After what seems like a very long wait, the UK officially left the EU two weeks ago. At long last, I hear many of you cry, I’m glad that is over! 

If only that was true.

In fact, what it means is we are now in the ‘transitional period’ – the time allowed for negotiating our future relationship with Europe. 

It’s impossible to predict what will happen after the transitional period, but for the time being, we continue as usual. Free movement of goods and people, continued compliance with European legislation and laws. 

But what does it all mean for the chemicals industry?

Ever since the decision to leave the EU back in 2016, the chemicals sector has made it very clear that they want access to ECHA (the European Chemicals Agency) and regulatory alignment. This message has been conveyed at many levels, right up to and including the relevant government department, by numerous chemical sector associations.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been much chemistry between the chemical sector and HM Government. Recent comments from the former Chancellor Sajid Javid made this painfully clear.

“There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule taker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year. We’re … talking about companies that have known since 2016 that we are leaving the EU.”

This is in fact a very different direction taken by that of the previous government who were looking for a close alignment with Europe and offered encouragement with regards to the sector’s needs.

If access to ECHA is not secured, then the most likely outcome for chemicals regulated under REACH is the implementation of UK REACH. 

UK REACH has been discussed and spoken about at many conferences and events. This will involve the mirroring of EU REACH registrations and resubmission of REACH dossiers and REACH costs. 

One of big hurdles for companies will be obtaining the relevant data to support the application and completing the submission in the current 2-year window that is being allowed. 

There is also the added concern that those businesses that have to date not had any responsibility under REACH will become importers and downstream users with regulatory obligations.

The single biggest concern that I see in regards UK REACH is the potential disappearance of chemicals from the UK market. If the cost of submitting and registering chemicals in the UK is too high, there is a real risk that companies will just stop doing business in the UK. 

In January 2021 we could see that the loss of these chemicals will mean that day to day products that we all take for granted are no longer available – your favourite bubble bath, for example.

I doubt if many people gave this much thought when they were making a decision in the ballot box back in June 2016.

As for chemicals regulated under the BPR including biocides, the future is even less clear. There was an assumption that, as with REACH, the UK would simply mirror the EU and implement UK BPR along with the requirement for dossier submission for actives, biocidal product registration and the UK’s version of Article 95.

This however is not a certainty. Comments made by the HSE at a recent event suggested that it not be in the UK’s interest to not look at other regimes globally when deciding how to regulate biocides in the UK after the transition period. This means it is likely to be 2021 before we have a clearer understanding of what the biocides framework looks like for the UK.

Alongside the negotiations for chemicals and the regulatory frameworks that  we take forward into 2021 and beyond is the development of a new chemical strategy which will look for input across the whole of Whitehall, incorporating priorities for domestic policy and legislation, reflecting our future relationship with the EU and international partners. There is an opportunity for business to be involved with the strategy and there will be a call for evidence in the Spring.

It is important that business is aware of what these changes mean for them and are prepared for the changes. Whatever the new regulatory landscape and chemicals strategy looks like at the start of 2021, Addmaster is prepared, we are currently doing business at a global level and work with a wide range of both trading and regulatory requirements. 

The one thing that is certain is the growth of the chemicals sector is essential for UK trade, chemicals underpin a vast number of industries. The changes and the future offers business huge opportunities to innovate.

If you have any questions relating to Brexit and would like to speak with us about your regulatory requirements and understand how Addmaster will ensure compliance, please don’t hesitate to contact our regulatory team who will be happy to speak with you.

In the meantime, let’s hope for a bit more love from our new Chancellor.

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