The UK chemical industry warned that attempts to create an industry-affordable post-Brexit regulatory regime were failing and risked causing “irreparable damage” to UK companies.
The frustrations arose after more than 18 months of negotiations between industry representatives and government over how to build a regulatory system for a sector that is vital to UK manufacturing. More than 95 percent of manufactured products contain chemicals.
After brexitThe UK has abandoned the EU’s ‘Reach’ chemicals management system but has repeatedly delayed introducing its own agreements after a government Impact evaluation found that it would cost industry £2bn to duplicate the security data already held in Brussels.
However, attempts to negotiate a deal with industry to reduce the cost of re-registering 22,400 chemicals with a UK copycat “Reach” system run by the government’s Health and Safety Executive are not bearing fruit, according to figures. industry high level.
Tom Bowtell, chief executive of the British Coatings Federation, called for a “restart” in negotiations, adding that talks about creating a lighter model “did not address many of the concerns that led to that pause in the first place.” .
The industry argues that it is unnecessarily expensive to duplicate registrations where the chemicals have already passed safety tests in the EU, but for intellectual property and legal reasons, the underlying data from those registrations is not available to the UK regulator.
However, conservation and environmental groups have said that unless the UK regulator is in full possession of the data, it cannot regulate effectively.
But Bowtell said a “sub-optimal” implementation of UK Reach could cost British industry billions of pounds and accused the government of lacking the “enforcement and creativity” needed to find a solution.
“If genuine progress is not made quickly, there is a risk of irreparable damage not only to the UK chemical sector, but also to downstream users and formulators of chemicals,” he told the BCF annual conference.
Geoff Mackrill, head of Teal & Mackrill, a Hull-based manufacturer of specialty paints that employs 70 people, said the prospect of the UK Reach requiring full duplication of existing EU chemical registrations could cost it crucial suppliers.
With some chemicals only found at trace levels in certain products, he warned that a number of European manufacturers would inevitably decide it was too costly and time consuming to double their EU registrations to serve a smaller UK market.
“Our products are made up of a wide menu of chemicals, but if an EU supplier removes one of those chemicals from the menu, then we have to reformulate, which is expensive and difficult,” Mackrill added. “The fear is that we will lose the ability to make products and innovate.”
This year the government Announced a three-year extension to the deadlines for completing full UK Reach registrations, which are now required in October 2026, October 2028 and October 2030, depending on the tonnage and toxicity of the chemicals in question.
Steve Elliott, director of the Chemical Industry Association, the industry’s umbrella organization, echoed Bowtell’s concerns, saying that while the deadline extensions were helpful, they reflected “very limited progress” in the negotiations. about UK Reach.
Elliott said the UK’s approach was at odds with recent promises by Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, to boost advanced manufacturing through “smart” regulation designed to encourage innovation.
“Unfortunately, such an outcome currently seems beyond us with respect to Reach and as the clock ticks down, companies have to make decisions about future investment amounts and locations,” he said.
The CIA said it remained committed to working with the government and conservation organizations to secure a viable deal, but added: “We need tangible progress. . . And we need it fast.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was committed to a regulatory regime for chemicals that would provide high levels of protection.
“We put Reach into UK law and put systems in place to ensure the safe and effective management and control of chemicals that protect human health and the environment,” a spokesperson added.