CHEM Trust published a briefing on EU-UK chemicals management cooperation scenarios post-Brexit. In addition to remaining part of REACH and as an associate member of ECHA, along the same lines as EEA countries, Articles 106 and 120 REACH, as well as the operating procedures of ECHA’s bodies, provide other mechanisms for partnership.
ECHA can share confidential business information (i.e. ECHA’s database) with the UK, under Article 120 REACH. There is no precedent for the use of this article and ECHA has not adopted a general approach on how it can be applied. Sharing the database would save businesses considerable costs from duplicating data required by the UK-REACH registration system (estimated at around EUR 1 bn). The UK database is currently empty and will not have full information on substances until 31 December 2022 (the deadline for businesses to submit full information to the UK database), with some signs this deadline may be relaxed. The EU would in any case have to consider sooner or later how to share ECHA’s data with third countries. After the transition period ends, REACH will still be applicable to Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland (which will then be a third country) authorities will need to access ECHA’s data base to enforce the regulation.
According to Article 106 REACH, the UK can also participate in the work of ECHA, more specifically in ECHA’s committees (e.g. risk assessment and socio-economic analysis committees). ECHA has previously granted such partnerships to Croatia (before accession) and to Switzerland (cooperation on biocides). The main criteria for allowing such participation is the third country’s chemicals management legislation close alignment with EU-REACH.
Other forms of cooperation include participation in certain ECHA’s entities such as the HelpNet or peer chemicals agencies collaboration based on a memorandum of understanding (e.g. between ECHA and the US Environment Protection Agency).
While the EU position on this is unclear at the moment, the UK wants a chemical annex in the future trade agreement that would provide for data and information-sharing. The UK is also interested in developing a memorandum of understanding with ECHA similar to those ECHA has with Australia and Canada. CHEM Trust and stakeholders across the industry are advocating for a partnership that is significantly closer than these agreements – that would ensure close alignment with REACH and active participation in ECHA. The briefing demonstrates the existing precedents for and legal mechanisms by which such a partnership could be secured.