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    No deal raises risk of regulatory divergence

    150 150 ioana bere

    After the UK’s PM decision to postpone the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, which was originally scheduled for 11th of December, all sides are stepping up preparations for a no deal UK departure.

    Whilst a lot of focus lies on dealing with immediate consequences arising from border issues, for example interruptions to the supply of essential goods, the UK has had to speed up the legislative work needed to close the gaps in UK’s statute book for when EU laws will no longer apply. Among those rules will be the EU’s chemical safety norms, namely the REACH regulation.

    Although the UK wants to copy across REACH into domestic law, ChemicalWatch reported that a Defra official confirmed that in a no-deal scenario the UK could start to diverge from the EU’s regulations and would consider what other regions such as the US are doing and weigh this against the UK’s interests.

    One flagship case is the REACH process of identifying substances which are found to be intrinsically hazardous (named Substances of Very High Concern) and become subject of substitution with safer alternatives. The UK has been known to raise objections to identifying such substances and the US chemical safety rules (TSCA – see next article) do not promote the substitution of toxic chemicals.

    Such a scenario brings to light a high risk of UK divergence from EU legislation post-Brexit, which would be detrimental to maintaining a level playing field between the EU and UK.

    European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018

    Staying within REACH and aligning with other EU legislation?

    150 150 ioana bere

    Within the Political Declaration, the EU and UK commit to “explore the possibility of cooperation” of the UK with three agencies, including the European Chemicals Agency ECHA, the EU’s regulatory body implementing the EU legislation on chemicals safety REACH. If the outcome of this is not entirely clear yet, one likely scenario would be to enable the UK to participate as an observer in ECHA’s proceedings. This would give access to the world’s largest chemical safety data base, but in return would require the UK to contribute finance and expertise, and to dynamically align with REACH legislation. Further, the UK would not be able to participate in decision-making processes and would be required to abide by the European Court of Justice’s rulings on this matter. In addition, the UK would have to transpose EU laws from other chemical related fields (e.g. industrial emissions, waste, water).

    Prime-minister May has already expressed the UK’s willingness to remain part of ECHA, but this was received with reluctance by the EU on the grounds of cherry-picking. These new developments have been welcomed by environmental and industry associations.

    May’s speech (2 March 2018)
    CHEM Trust position
    Cefic position

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