Chemicals legislation and Brexit
Published: 06 Jul 2018

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have confirmed that, by working closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency, they have a crucial role to play in the UK's chemicals regulatory process.

As developments continue in the EU withdrawal negotiations, the HSE have issued a notice emphasising their commitment to the effective and safe management of chemicals, which will not change when the UK leaves the EU. It hopefully provides reassurance for those businesses affected by the chemicals regulatory process.

The implementation period

The UK and the EU have reached agreement on the terms of an implementation period, which is the transition period during which the UK will leave the EU.

Building on this, negotiations have continued around other separation issues, including goods on the market. Subject to conclusion and ratification of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, the implementation period will start on 30 March 2019 and last until 31 December 2020.

During this period, the UK will no longer be a Member State of the European Union, but market access will continue on current terms. This means that UK-EU trade will be able to continue on the same terms as now up until the end of 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement now needs to be finalised as a whole - which is hoped to be by October 2018, alongside the framework for our future relationship with the EU.

What do businesses need to know?

During the implementation period and finalisation of the Withdrawal Agreement:

  • registrations, approvals, authorisations and classifications in place before March 2019 will continue to be valid in the same way that they are now;
  • REACH will continue to apply to the UK;
  • the process for registering new chemicals under REACH will remain the same as it is now, which means UK companies still need to register with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA);
  • the UK will recognise all new registrations, approvals, authorisations and classifications granted by the EU;
  • it is likely the HSE will not be able to act as a "leading authority" to conduct certain assessments under the Plant Protection Products, Biocidal and REACH Regulations;
  • UK-based businesses will have the same rights as EU-based businesses to have their cases accepted and processed by "leading authorities" based in other EU Member States;
  • the HSE will continue to process product applications under the Plant Protection Products and Biocidal Regulation for the UK market under the national authorisation route. Any applications will be considered against the current rules and standards.

Preparing for the worst!

Although the UK hopes to secure a comprehensive agreement with the EU on a future relationship, the Government is also preparing for the scenario in which no mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached.

This includes:

  • making sure an effective regulatory framework is in place for any scenario. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 converts current EU chemicals regulation into domestic law so their requirements will continue to apply in the UK;
  • beginning development on a UK chemicals IT system to support the registration of chemicals placed on the UK market.

For more information, see:

  • European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018;
  • Regulation (EC) 1907/2006, on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH);
  • Regulation (EC) 1272/2008, on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP);
  • Regulation (EC) 1107/2009, on the placing of plant protection products on the market;
  • Regulation (EU) 528/2012, on the making available on the market and use of biocidal products.