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Brexit could add to complexity of chemical regulations

July 12, 2016
Chemical Value Chain

The decision by the British electorate to leave the European Union raises a number of questions and poses some implications form the perspective of chemical regulations and policy.

“Most chemical regulatory legislation in the UK and other member states is derived from the European Union,” says Dave Gordon, environmental partner, chemicals industry group at law firm Squire Patton Boggs (London). The European Union has implemented a number of regulations related to chemicals, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH); the Classification, Labelling, and Packaging (CLP) Regulation; and the Biocidal Products Regulation. These regulations are directly applicable, without the need for national implementation legislation, with national law only having to deal with enforcement and penalties, according to Gordon.

Once the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the European Union, a large number of directly applicable EU laws – such as REACH – would cease to have effect in the United Kingdom, and it would be necessary to replace or duplicate these laws in UK domestic law, Gordon says. “Given the huge list of laws that would need to be reviewed, it is highly unlikely that new legal regimes would be finalized prior to the exit taking effect,” Gordon says. “It seems more likely that these laws would be gradually reviewed and that some sort of interim legislation would need to be put in place.”

The deadline for the third and final round of REACH is 31 May 2018, by which time it seems unlikely that Brexit would have taken place. REACH would thus still apply to the United Kingdom, and British chemical companies would still have to comply with the deadline and the registration requirements. And in any case British companies exporting chemicals to the European Union must comply with REACH and the other EU chemical legislation. On the other hand, when a substance is imported into the European Union from the United Kingdom, post-Brexit, the importing entity would be treated as an importer under REACH. “That could trigger registration requirements for EU entities that had previously been downstream users, and that would not have previously been expecting to register [chemicals themselves],” says Gordon.

In addition, should the British decided to continue to apply REACH post-Brexit, it is not clear whether British companies would have access to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA; Helsinki) or its REACH-related databases, according to Gordon. Non-EU countries exporting chemicals into the United Kingdom after Brexit would no longer have to comply with REACH, but would have to comply with whatever UK domestic legislation that was implemented to replace REACH. That would then add complexity to managing exports to Europe, Gordon says.

By Michael Ravenscroft

Source: Chemical Week

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