Professional bodies collectively instruct UK Lords to back retention of effective chemical regulation post-Brexit.

The effective regulation of chemicals is critical for the economy, public health, environmental protection, the economy and animal welfare and ending the UK’s involvement in the EU chemical framework REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) could have serious consequences. This is the message from members of the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), a network of UK environmental professional bodies including IEMA, to parliamentarians today as chemical regulation in the context of Brexit is due to be discussed in the Lords.

The EPF has written to a number of peers expressing concerns about the future regulation of chemicals in the UK post-Brexit and recommending strongly that the UK remains in REACH rather than trying to create a parallel and potentially expensive and inefficient UK system. Following the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday 2nd March, which recognised the need for the UK to remain part of the European Chemicals Agency, the EPF is calling upon peers to secure binding commitment from the Government on this as they discuss chemicals and chemical regulation in today’s debate.

REACH, adopted in 2007, is a world-leading framework designed to provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals and to make those who place chemicals on the market responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their use. It also seeks to minimise the levels of animal testing required and enhance innovation in and the competitiveness of the EU (and hence the UK’s) chemicals industry.

The letter states:

“Globally, the best regulatory regime is currently the EU REACH regime, of which until it leaves the EU, the UK is an integral and influential part. Whilst we welcome the Government’s stated intention to seek a comparable level of protection after Brexit, as a group of leading environmental experts we are concerned that this is not achievable unless the UK’s continued participation in REACH is agreed.”

“A separate system without access to the existing database of chemical safety information would be very expensive to establish and operate, both for Government and for the UK chemical industry. Not only would the need to generate repeat safety information be expensive, it could also require significant duplication of animal testing, with the associated impact on animal welfare. The UK would also lose access to the combined scientific expertise in the EU Member States, as well as losing influence on future scientific and policy development in this area.”

Other risks associated with leaving REACH include the potential for future divergence in approach on specific chemicals between the EU and the UK, which could lead to a number of unwelcome outcomes including barriers to trade for the UK’s multi-billion-pound chemical and pharmaceutical industry and other industries that use chemicals in their products and processes. Delays and blockages in cross-border supply chains could also impact on UK industry and there is the further risk of the continued use or sale in the UK – permanently or for a limited time – of chemicals deemed too dangerous in the EU.

Professor Will Pope, Chair of the EPF, says: “The importance of remaining in REACH is not just a UK/EU issue; across the world, manufacturers exporting into the EU are bound by REACH – it has become a global standard setter. It also ensures the safe management of these chemicals when products and materials are recycled or disposed of at end-of-life. Remaining in REACH is, therefore, critical for future UK trade and for the protection of the UK economy, our public health, the environment and animal welfare.”


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