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    BW2_Chemicals

    UK chemicals industry reiterates its call for a close regulatory alignment with the EU

    150 150 ioana bere

    Following the outcome of the UK general election, the UK chemical industry has reiterated its willingness to stay aligned with the EU’s regulatory system. This is considered to be an essential point for ensuring frictionless access to the EU’s internal market post-Brexit. This position is echoed by UK NGOs, who have reiterated the importance of safeguarding ECHA membership.

    The global chemicals giant BASF estimated that complying with requirements for a UK REACH replica will cost the company around 75 million euros. For certain substances, the cost of registration would be seven times higher than the profit it can generate per year. Due to the high costs for a relatively small market, BASF may decide not to register some substances in the UK. As other competitors are also taking into account this option, it might leave UK chemical users with a smaller palette of substances to choose from compared to their EU counterparts.

    Former Prime Minister May’s intention was to seek associate membership of ECHA, but it is unclear if this will be prioritized under Johnson’s government. Although ECHA is still mentioned in Johnson’s revised Political Declaration, the subsequent sentence on aligning with Union rules was removed. Further, “level playing field” references on environmental standards have been deleted from the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement and moved into the Political Declaration.

    Chemical Watch article on regulatory alignment
    Chemical Watch article on BASF

    ECHA reiterates its call for companies to get no-deal exit ready

    150 150 ioana bere

    (12 September 2019) On 1 November 2019, chemical registrations under REACH made by UK companies will become void. This means they will no longer hold licenses allowing them access to the EU market. Therefore, ECHA is again issuing a call on companies to transfer their business or registration to the EU if they want to maintain business links with the EU. Despite multiple previous calls and Brexit deadline extensions, a large share of substances which are only UK registered have not yet been transferred (estimated at around 40%), suggesting that major supply chain disruptions and enforcement issues should be expected in case of no-deal exit.

    UK government reinstates ban on hormone disrupting pesticides after NGO threat

    150 150 ioana bere

    (20 June 2019) The UK government published a revised statutory instrument on the Pesticides Regulation which fixes the “drafting error” previously reported by the University of Sussex (Brexit Watch n°22). Three paragraphs establishing the ban on endocrine disrupting chemicals in the EU’s regulation from 2009, had been deleted from the text of the UK instrument. The relevant provisions will be reinstated by the new amendment.

    Last week CHEM Trust threatened with legal action unless weakened protections were amended. Michael Warhurst from CHEM Trust finds it “hard to believe” in a drafting error, given the strong lobbying of the US against banning hormone disrupting chemicals.

    Revised Statutory Instrument on the Pesticides Regulation
    CHEM Trust article
    Brexit Watch n°22

    UK drops ban on toxic pesticides – an error or fast-tracked regulatory divergence?

    150 150 ioana bere

    As time passes, more deficiencies are identified amongst the flood of statutory instruments, which were put forward by the UK government under the Withdrawal Act, which aims at copying across the EU’s acquis.

    Easier said than done: the UK’s new legislation on pesticides would significantly change governance and objectives, going beyond a technical adaptation to the UK context, according to a study conducted at the UK Trade Policy Observatory, University of Sussex. It would give “more control to UK Ministers and less to independent scientific advisors”, which weakens the enforcement mechanisms and allow Ministers to consider the evidence at their own discretion.

    Further to that, it appears that the EU’s legally binding restriction on active substances that have endocrine disrupting properties is missing from the UK’s copy across statutory instrument. Dr Lydgate, from the University of Sussex, postulated whether the changes in UK’s pesticides rules would make it easier for the UK to pivot to an US type of regulation.

    CHEM Trust argues that this represents the “first concrete evidence of Brexit being used as a cover for deregulation”. CHEM Trust have sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter threatening legal action to Secretary of State Michael Gove unless weakened protections are amended. The letter also formally calls for a revision of the UK’s statutory instrument on REACH, which removes vital stakeholder engagement mechanisms, amongst other deficiencies. Responding in the HuffPost, the Ministry, Defra, said it was a “drafting error” which they are now addressing.

    HuffPost article (June 2019)
    Laboratory news article (May 2019)

    The UK’s REACH-IT system is ready to provide basic functionality

    150 150 Almut Bonhage

    The UK’s IT system for chemicals registration provides “basic functionality”, according to the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA), which helped test it. However, some aspects need further work, including a functionality that would allow registrants of the same substance to contact each other, and clarification on process for companies importing or manufacturing a substance for the first time in the UK.

    Should the UK leave the EU’s chemicals safety regulation REACH under a no deal scenario, it will have to duplicate chemical registrations. Earlier this month, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove reassured a House of Lords subcommittee that Defra has the personnel and contingency plans ready for a no-deal Brexit, and has taken account of the concerns expressed by the chemicals industry association.
     
    Chemical Watch article

    Is the chemical market prepared for Brexit?

    150 150 ioana bere

    According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), over 4,800 of an estimated total of 12,000 UK registrations have been transferred to the EU27 or are in the process of being transferred. The transfers have been accelerating rapidly with last week seeing a record of 1,800 transfers.

    Nevertheless, out of the 1,181 substances that hold a registration only in the UK, only 197 have so far been transferred to the EU27.If not transferred in time, i.e. before Brexit day, these substances are at risk of losing access to the internal market and to cause major supply chain disruptions
    ECHA advises companies to proceed to the transfer through the IT tool before Brexit takes effect (currently 13 April 2019, 00:00).

    ECHA’s communication

    Significant number of chemicals’ registrations moving to the EU

    150 150 ioana bere

    The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) reported this week that they are working on transferring 3,000 REACH registrations to the EU27. These transfers are a necessary step for UK companies to maintain access to the EU’s internal market. According to UK’s Chemical Industries Association, transfers will still continue, as the number of substances registered by UK companies is higher than originally assessed.

    ECHA announced that the transfer window will now stay open after 30 March, and will be “subject to further developments”. ECHA’s advice to chemical companies remains the same and will be adapted accordingly in the event of new developments.

    ECHA’s communication
    ECHA’s instructions for companies
    Chemical Watch article

    UK tech industry association supports regulatory alignment on chemicals

    150 150 ioana bere

    Amidst the Brexit uncertainties, representative of the UK’s tech industry association TechUK Susanne Baker, called for the UK to remain aligned to the EU’s chemical safety rules. Speaking about the UK’s Statutory Instrument on REACH, which will replicate REACH into domestic UK law, she highlighted the uncertainties the tech sector is facing as a downstream user of chemicals. Baker expressed her “concerns about the skills and readiness of the Health and Safety Executive to run the new system”. Though she does not believe that the UK will necessarily lower environmental standards. Downstream users of chemicals often benefit from upstream authorisations, which will no longer be valid in the UK post-Brexit, and therefore will have to submit relevant paperwork to the new UK Chemical Agency, the Health and Safety Executive.

    Michael Warhurst, from CHEM Trust, one of the environmental groups which together with chemical industry called for keeping the UK in REACH, said that UK government is likely to lower environmental standards once outside the EU.

    Chemical Watch Business Summit 2019

    House of Commons approves heavily criticised new chemical safety plans

    150 150 ioana bere

    (25 February 2019) A new Statutory Instrument (SI), which attempts to copy across the EU’s chemicals safety regulation REACH into domestic UK law, was approved by a narrow majority after heated debate in the House of Commons. The SI was criticised by opposition MPs for deleting crucial governance structures for independent scientific advice and stakeholder engagement, and risking duplicate animal testing.

    A Government Minister confirmed that the critical IT system may not be up and running by Brexit day and that significant costs and new staff capacities are needed to administer a distinct UK chemicals safety system, amounting to an estimated £13 million a year. As Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will take over ECHA’s role, it will have to employ at least 35 to 40 more people and will also need further financial support, as it has previously suffered funding cuts of 40%. Even with these preparations, critics still point out that HSE “lacks the capacity, the resources, the experience and expertise” to take over duties. Indeed, ECHA, the EU’s agency implementing REACH, deploys around 10 times more resources.

    The UK Government confirmed growing fears that the ECHA’s chemical safety database will most probably have to be duplicated due to property rights. Chemical companies could in theory ask for amending consortium contracts and make data available both under the EU REACH and UK systems. Nevertheless, 75% of UK companies hold their data in consortiums, to which access is restricted due to their particular configurations. According to the Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman, additional tests on animals will need to be performed in order to duplicate the already existing data that is not obtainable.

    Labour politicians opposed the SI and asked the Government to take it back to the drawing board, however the SI was narrowly passed in the vote. In order to be signed into law, the instrument will now go through a vote in the House of Lords.

    Debate in the House of Commons 
    More on SI procedural activity
    CHEM Trust’s article on the debate and vote

    ECHA opens a 18 days Brexit window for companies to stay on market

    150 150 ioana bere

    (8 February 2019) With Brexit day fast approaching, ECHA published a preparedness note encouraging chemicals companies to take action prior to the UK’s withdrawal. In order to maintain market access, UK-based companies will have to transfer their business or appoint an only representative in an EU27/ EEA country. A “Brexit window” for the REACH IT system will be opened from the 12th to 29th of March to enable UK-based companies to change or transfer their registrations. EU27/ EEA downstream users relying on authorisations granted to UK-based companies will also need to make sure they can use another valid authorisation received by an EU27/ EEA-based company.

    ECHA preparedness note

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