Securing a deal with the EU that guarantees tariff free trade, close regulatory cooperation and access to skilled people continues to be of critical importance for the chemical industry. With well-established supply chains and materials crossing the channel multiple times for even basic products, a vital aspect of a future agreement is to ensure the future UK/EU trading relationship is as frictionless as possible.
On regulations, industry has continuously pushed for a cooperation agreement that would see the UK formally connected to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and related EU regulations. This would be the most effective approach to regulate chemicals, enable Government to deliver on its future environmental ambitions whilst minimising the cost to UK’s manufacturing industry to compete globally. Without such an agreement on chemicals regulations, the UK is expected to set up its own regulatory regimes, lose access to scientific data submitted by companies to ECHA and 10 years of investment in compliance. The cost of duplicating EU REACH alone in the UK is estimated to exceed £1 billion for UK businesses, directly affecting the future viability of products, potentially forcing duplicate testing and seriously questioning the environmental benefits in informing future policy, such as the forthcoming national chemicals strategy.
With the launch of formal negotiations, both the UK and EU chemical industry need an agreement that recognises the economic and environmental logic of remaining closely connected, particularly with regard to the REACH regulation. More specifically, industry welcomes a chemicals sector-specific annex as part of the trade agreement, looking to a commitment in developing a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance further cooperation as well as the possibility to agree data and information sharing mechanisms. However, in pursuing this approach, and in order to build on progress made to date on regulations such as REACH, industry is urging negotiators to agree as a minimum:
1. A close regulatory cooperation between the UK and the EU that goes beyond the level of technical cooperation ECHA have with other countries under existing agreements.
2. A mechanism to share data between respective authorities that would enable both the EU and UK to evaluate and take decisions on chemicals from a common data pool.
Such an approach would mean the UK could evaluate and take decisions on chemicals, informed by what is acknowledged as one of the most comprehensive databases on chemicals, whilst minimising future divergence. In this way, the UK can help create a policy environment that is sensitive to innovation and growth – strengthening the chemical industry’s capability to deliver sustainable solutions across the whole economy and wider society and tackle the major challenge of climate change and decarbonisation.