UK firms must comply with EU chemicals laws, following Brexit vote

18th July 2016


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Amanda Williams

British companies that sell chemicals and products in Europe must continue to comply with EU requirements, the bloc's chemicals regulator has said.

According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the vote to leave the EU had thrown UK businesses and those in the rest of the EU as well as companies further afield into an era of great uncertainty about their legal obligations under the EU chemicals law, REACH.

In a statement, the agency said that until the UK invokes Article 50 of the Treaty of the EU, it remains a member , with all the rights and obligations that go with it. It also said compliance with EU chemicals legislation would apply whether the UK decides to remain part of the single market or if it joins the European Economic Area (EEA).

The ECHA has appointed Andreas Herdina, head of its communications and outreach directorate, as its contact point for British companies. Herdina’s primary task is to ensure that the agency takes a single consolidated position towards UK firms and to act as a reference point on Brexit matters, including British nationals working at the Helsinki-based regulator.

The next REACH registration deadline for manufacturers or importers of chemicals or mixtures above one tonne is 31 May 2018. The ECHA said the deadline would still apply to UK chemicals companies, given that protracted negotiations between the UK and the rest of the EU are expected to last at least two years once formal departure talks begin.

The UK is an important trading partner for EU chemical companies, contributing on average 9% (€46.3 billion) of total annual EU28 chemicals sales of €531 billion.

REACH, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation and the Biocidal Products Regulation directly apply in all member states and do not need national implementing legislation. As such, they would no longer apply when the UK leaves the EU. This would potentially create a legislative vacuum, unless laws are put in place so that REACH can continue or new domestic chemicals regulations are enacted.

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