The recent Brexit negotiations and votes by the British Parliament increase the risk of a hard Brexit, or at least a Brexit following which the UK would leave the EEA. In such case, chemical substances registered in the UK will no longer be legally registered under REACH, and import and export of hazardous chemicals will require prior approval. This blogpost elaborates on a few of the consequences for businesses.
Classification, labelling and packaging
The CLP Regulation requires manufacturers, importers or downstream users of substances or mixtures to classify, label and package their hazardous chemicals appropriately before placing them on the market.
After Brexit, the UK is expected to uphold the CLP regime largely. However, companies importing chemicals from the UK into the EU27 would become importers under CLP and would need to comply with the notification obligations of an importer.
Registration of imported chemicals
The REACH Regulation requires (with some exemptions) that any chemical substance manufactured in, or imported into, the EU at greater than 1 tonne per annum be registered.
Interactions with UK-based business partners will be impacted by Brexit, as the UK will become a third country. A chemical substance from a UK-based company registered under REACH will cease to be legally registered after Brexit. Notably, EU27-based companies which source their substances from a UK-based manufacturer or supplier, will lose their status of downstream user and will be qualified as an EU importer, who will have to register itself the substance under REACH. Alternatively, these companies could request their UK-based manufacturer to appoint an ‘only representative’ in one of the remaining Member States.
If an EU27-based company participated in a joint submission with a UK-based company as the lead registrant, and that company does not wish to remain on the EU27-Market, the remaining members of the joint submission will have to agree on a new lead.
New substances will need to be registered under REACH as well and registrations will entail additional costs for businesses.
Vice versa the export of chemical substances from the EU27 to the UK will equally require the presence of an authorisation holder under the new UK REACH. The functions now carried out by ECHA, will be carried out in the UK by HSE.
Export of hazardous chemicals
The PIC Regulation regulates the import and export of very hazardous chemicals between the European Union and third countries, and implements the global Rotterdam Convention within the EU.
Its aim is to share information on hazardous chemicals, including how to store, transport, use and dispose of these chemicals safely.
The PIC Regulation requires exporters in EU Member States to notify their intention to export certain chemicals to countries outside the EU. In addition to the notification requirement, the export of some chemicals also requires the explicit consent of the importing country.
Following Brexit, EU27-based companies will need to start notifying exports to the UK. ECHA will apply a temporary procedure to cover exports to the UK during the first 35 days following Brexit, if no withdrawal deal is in place by 29 March. UK-based companies on the other hand will no longer have obligations under the PIC Regulation, but the UK would establish an independent standalone PIC regime so that the UK can continue to meet its international obligations under the Rotterdam Convention.
Finally, there is a risk that the UK would lower its standards of chemical regulation after Brexit. It might do so to encourage chemical manufacturers to relocate their production to the UK.
Given the large amount of chemical trade that takes place between the UK and EU, it should however be noted that the UK government has already committed to remain aligned to REACH post-Brexit and to maintain and in the long term even enhance environmental standards, limiting these risks.