People and wildlife in the UK are currently protected from harmful chemicals by the most sophisticated regulation system in the world – the EU ‘s chemical regulation, REACH, administered by the European Chemicals Agency ECHA in Helsinki.
On 22nd June 2016 the UK voted in a referendum to leave the EU. The process of leaving the EU – Brexit – presents many risks for environmental and other regulation in the UK.
In CHEM Trust’s view the UK should aim to stay as close as possible to REACH, for example including it in any Free Trade Agreement negotiated with the rest of the EU. We consider that any new regulatory system would be expensive to create and would be very unlikely to provide the same level of protection of public and the environment.
It is vital that a post-Brexit Britain continues to have an effective system to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals, such as those that can accumulate in our bodies or disrupt our hormones.
What might the conditions be?
In order to seek participation in ECHA, CHEM Trust expects that the EU will set three conditions for the UK to participate in REACH:
- The UK would need to fully follow all decisions on chemicals in REACH, without a vote on these decisions, but with the opportunity to be involved in the discussions (as Norway is);
- The UK would need to accept the supervision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), or something very similar, like the European Free Trade Area (Efta) court, which EEA countries like Norway use
- The UK would have to continue to implement and follow a number of other chemical-related EU laws, such as those on factory pollution (e.g. the Industrial Emissions Directive), water pollution (water framework directive) and worker health.
Beyond this conditions the EU may also have concerns about the ‘cherry picking’ parts of the internal market, but in our view their are key advantages for the EU of the UK remaining in REACH – see the “Can the UK stay in REACH?” presentation for details.
- The UK Government published a White Paper on Brexit on 12th July – our blog examines what it says about REACH and ECHA, and what more we think the UK will have to do to stay in REACH.
- CHEM Trust Executive Director Dr Michael Warhurst gave a keynote presentation, “Can the UK stay in REACH?“, at a Chemical Watch conference on “Post Brexit options for UK chemicals law” on April 17th 2018. Chemical Watch have reported on the conference, including this talk.
Our earlier contributions include:
- In a speech on Friday March 2nd the UK Prime Minister Theresa May stated that the UK wished to discuss the possibility of remaining part of the EU chemicals agency ECHA after Brexit. A UK Minister has also confirmed that the UK would accept the European Court of Justice as part of this arrangement. Read our blog for more details and to see what we think the UK will need to do to get this access.
- Giving written and oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK House of Commons inquiry on “The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum” in the first half of 2017. See also our blog commenting on the release of their report.
- Working with Tech UK and Chemical Watch to organise a workshop on “Post-Brexit options for UK chemicals law”, in London on 29th September 2017; see also our blog on the conference. Michael Warhurst’s presentation at the conference was “Post-Brexit UK chemicals law: The only way is REACH“.
- Working with SumOfUs to find out what the public think about Brexit & chemicals policy – see our blog “What is the will of the UK people on hazardous chemicals?“.
- A comment piece,”A red light for the UK’s plans for chemical regulations after Brexit“, by Michael Warhurst in the Chemical Watch Global Business Briefing in October 2017.
- A ChemSec webinar presentation aimed at businesses by CHEM Trust Executive Director, Michael Warhurst, on Brexit and Chemicals, in July 2017. The video of the webinar is available here, the presentation is available as a powerpoint or a pdf.
- Analysing the risks posed by Brexit risks for UK chemicals regulation in the Greener UK Brexit Risk Tracker.
- The Green Alliance’s “Inside Track” blog on “Why the UK should stick with the EU’s world leading chemical protections“, by CHEM Trust’s Brexit Campaigner Andrea Speranza, and “Why keeping the UK in REACH is the best option post-Brexit” on the ChemSec blog.
- A blog on “What has the EU done to protect us from dangerous chemicals” by Michael Warhurst, on the Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) website, before the UK’s referendum on EU membership, June 2016. There’s a longer version of the blog on our site.
- A briefing with Greener UK, “Briefing for second reading of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, 30 and 31 January 2018” on the future chemicals regulation and the environmental risks of the UK leaving REACH, in January 2018.
You can read all our blogs related to chemicals and Brexit here.