The chairman of the House of Lords group monitoring UK chemicals regulation has warned that Britain’s industry is on the “cliff edge” unless it establishes a workable post-Brexit regulatory regime.
Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson, who chairs the energy and environment sub-committee, said that if the UK government did not negotiate continued participation in the EU regulatory system REACH, the consequences for the country’s second largest manufacturing sector would be damaging.
The sub-committee’s Brexit: chemical regulation report said it could mean that UK-produced chemicals would not be valid for sale to the 27 European Union member states, while the domestic industry would lack complete safety information about products used in Britain.
“Chemical regulation might seem like a niche area of Brexit considerations, but chemicals are used to make products that we all use every day, and the chemical sector is key to the UK’s economy,” Teverson remarked.
“At the moment they’re regulated by REACH, which combines legislation with an EU database, an EU regulator and the EU Single Market to keep us all safe.”
[Government] urgently needs to be working on a Plan B, and that simply hasn’t happened, which leaves the sector facing a huge cliff-edge
Lord Teverson, chairman, House of Lords energy and environment sub-committee
He added that the committee acknowledge Government efforts to remain in the REACH system but added “its negotiation red line on the UK’s membership of the Single Market makes that highly unlikely”.
“That means it urgently needs to be working on a Plan B, and that simply hasn’t happened, which leaves the sector facing a huge cliff-edge on the day we leave the EU.”
Roz Bulleid, head of climate & environment policy at manufacturers’ organisation EEF, acknowledged government had made progress on preparing a post-Brexit regulatory regime and had listened to calls for continuing close alignment with the EU.
However, she added that the EEF shared the concerns of the Lords regarding the economic and legislative concerns regarding trade with EU member states.
“Manufacturers are reliant on thousands of chemicals directly and through their supply chains and those supply chains spread across the EU," said Bulleid.
"We would very much agree with the committee on the significance of this issue and would urge Government to step up communication with its stakeholders around a no deal Brexit. Companies need more detail now on what that would entail and how they should be preparing.”
The Lords sub-committee has called on Downing Street to explain how an independent regulatory regime would work, provide a more credible plan for collecting information on chemicals, identify a UK agency to take on the regulatory role and enable UK chemical businesses to maintain their access to the EU market ahead of the withdrawal date.