As we highlighted in our response to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on ‘The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum’, to make UK regulation work, it is critical that the UK establishes how regulatory decisions will be made. This includes addressing how expert scientific input feeds in and what legal relationship the UK will have with EU bodies, such as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), that are currently key to decision-making.
Chemical sciences data and expertise underpin regulation relating to chemicals
It is critical to establish how data generated by industry, underpinning regulation, will be accessed, reviewed and interpreted. Diverse types of chemical sciences data are used in chemical safety assessment frameworks and interpreted by scientific experts who inform policymakers. On exit day, it is not clear if, and how, the UK will be able to access ECHA’s extensive databases. The UK has a strong reputation in the science underpinning chemicals regulation. EU scientific advisory committees, such as those at the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA), are rich in UK talent and regularly call for international scientific expertise. I hope that such strong scientific collaborations will continue between UK, EU and international experts.
International scientific cooperation and collaboration are vital to foster globally harmonised regulations and international trade
If the UK wants to look beyond the EU, strengthening its role as a world leader in research, innovation and new products for global trade, we need to understand how other potential partners regulate their chemicals, and assess regulatory alignment. Where there are divergences, the UK has an opportunity to use its expertise to foster greater alignments and regulatory innovation. Harmonisation happens at the scientific level: discussions between specialist scientists are needed from a range of disciplines relevant to regulation. The UN development of the globally harmonised system (GHS) of classification of chemical hazards, is a good example of successful cooperation between international scientists and regulators.
Looking to the future, it is positive to note that the issue of regulation – which we had pointed out was absent in an earlier Green Paper – has been mentioned considerably more in the UK government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper. The government has clearly recognised the importance of regulation, and the need to achieve the balance we advocate.
Our engagement activities to establish ‘what good looks like’ for regulation
Throughout 2017, we actively engaged on the future of UK chemicals regulation with our members and key stakeholders, such as those we liaise with on the UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum (UKCSF). To engage with our members, we held a workshop with our Environment and Regulation Collective (EnReC) on ‘Science and the development of chemical & environmental policy’. We brought together over 50 expert scientists and senior policymakers to discuss four hypothetical future regulatory scenarios for the UK post EU-exit. The four scenarios (see image across the page) span two dimensions:
1. Strongly regulated to completely un-regulated chemicals management frameworks.
2. Complete divergence from, or complete alignment with, EU or other global regulations.