Currently, the UK chemicals industry is regulated through a framework largely based on EU legislation and implemented by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The main piece of legislation is REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), which requires EU companies to register chemicals with ECHA before placing them on the market and puts in place additional regulatory controls on hazardous chemicals.
Companies producing and exporting chemicals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must comply with REACH by ensuring the EU-based importer they supply fulfils the requirements or procuring the services of an Only Representative (OR).
How processes would change
If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020) without a deal, the government would ensure UK legislation replaces EU legislation, establish a UK regulatory framework and build capacity to deliver the functions currently performed by ECHA.
We would maintain existing standards of protection of human health and the environment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would act as the lead UK regulatory authority, building on its existing capacity and capability.
If you are a company registered with REACH, you would no longer be able to sell into the EEA market without transferring your registrations to an EU-based organisation. You would therefore need to take action to preserve your EEA market access.
If you currently import chemicals from an EU country or an EEA country, you would face new registration requirements.
Under the UK’s replacement for REACH, importers would have a duty to register chemicals. Similarly, if you are a UK downstream user of authorisations, you would no longer be able to rely on authorisation decisions addressed to companies in the remaining 27 EU countries or EEA countries.
To ensure continuity for business, the government would:
- carry across existing REACH registrations held by UK-based companies directly into the UK’s replacement for REACH, legally ‘grandfathering’ the registrations into the UK regime
- set up a transitional light-touch notification process for UK companies importing chemicals from the EEA before the UK leaves the EU that don’t hold a REACH registration. This would reduce the risk of interruption in supply chains for companies currently relying on a registration held by an EEA-based company. This would mean that those UK companies could continue to buy those chemicals from the EEA without any break
- carry into the UK system all existing authorisations to continue using higher-risk chemicals currently held by UK companies
To ensure we have the information needed to regulate the safe use of chemicals, UK firms would need to take the following actions:
- businesses with existing EU REACH registrations being automatically grandfathered into the UK regime or authorisations would have to validate their existing registration with the UK authority (HSE), opening an account on the new UK IT system and providing some basic information on their existing registration within 60 days of the UK leaving the EU. This IT system is being tested with a range of different users so that it is ready to support registrations of chemicals in the UK from March 2019
- companies with grandfathered registrations would have 2 years from the day the UK leaves the EU to provide the UK authority (HSE) with the full data package that supported their original EU registration and is held on the ECHA IT system
- businesses that imported chemicals from the EEA before the UK leaves the EU (but who did not have an EU REACH registration), would need to notify the UK authority and provide some basic data on the chemicals within 180 days of the UK leaving the EU, instead of having to undertake a full registration immediately. This would be an interim arrangement for those importers and they would need to move to full registration at a later date following a review of this approach
- importing businesses would be responsible for identifying appropriate risk management measures and recommending them to their customers
If you wish to place new chemicals on the EEA and UK market, in a ‘no deal’ scenario, you would have to make 2 separate registrations, one to the EEA and one to the UK. The information and data package needed would be the same for both.
If you are a UK company with existing REACH registrations and you wish to maintain EEA market access, you would need to refer to guidance on the ECHA website on the steps you need to take.
If you are an existing UK registrant, you would need to transfer your registrations to an appropriate EEA-based entity (such as an affiliate or an Only Representative), or develop new working relationships with EEA customers, before the UK leaves the EU.
If you wish to register new chemicals for the EEA market after the UK leaves the EU, you would need to register those with ECHA as you do now, but would need to do so via your EU customers or an OR. Further guidance on how to do this can be found on the ECHA website.
Imports and exports of mercury
Use, disposal, storage and movement of mercury in the UK is currently regulated through a framework based on EU Regulation 2017/852, which implements the UN Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Currently, it is prohibited to export mercury, mercury waste, the mercury compounds/mixtures listed in Annex I of the Regulation, and mercury-added products listed in Annex II, outside the EU (with certain derogations).
If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020) without a deal, the movement of mercury materials, including mercury waste, from the EU to the UK would be classified as exports, and prohibited under the current EU Regulation.
EU countries would continue to be able to accept mercury waste from the UK for disposal where the exporting country has no access to available conversion capacity within its own territory. The UK would seek to replicate the current situation by only allowing export from the UK to the EU.
The restrictions and derogations on the import of mercury, mixtures/compounds of mercury, and mercury-added products would not change. Export of listed mercury materials outside the EU is prohibited under the current EU Regulation.
As a consequence, operators would not be able to receive shipments from the EU. In 2017, a small quantity of commodity mercury came to the UK from EU countries so we believe this change should have a limited impact on business. The current requirement for business operators to obtain written consent to import mercury or the mixtures of mercury for a use allowed in the UK would continue.
Actions you can take now
- Consider any changes you may need to make to adapt to new processes and systems.
- The passport rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change if the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 (may also apply to new exit date on 31 December 2020) without a deal. Read the government’s guidance on Travelling to the EU with a UK passport if there’s no Brexit deal and, if relevant, ensure your employees and customers are aware of the potential changes.
- Stay up-to-date with these changes by registering for email alerts. Follow the link, add your email address, select ‘submit’, select ‘Add subscription’ and choose ‘EU Exit’ then select ‘Submit’.