Chemicals sector finds Brexit's sunlit uplands hard to REACH
28 Apr 2021
Brexit’s sunlit uplands are proving difficult to access and, for one sector at least, the blame for this problem cannot be pinned on one year of lockdown.
Outside of Westminster and certainly within the chemicals sector it would be hard to find anyone keen to argue for the UK to dispense with its participation in the European Union REACH regime.
Government insouciance with regards to the implications of departure might have been defensible, had it been countered with a more comprehensive effort to create a suitable replacement.Granted, there is no one obvious on either side of the Brexit argument who seems opposed to the UK variant mirroring closely the EU version, provided authority resides this side of the water.
Yet it is unlikely that outside the chemicals sector much thought was given to the fact that, in order to achieve the aura of sovereignty, this replicant will saddle the UK industry with a bureaucratic headache and a duplication of costs.
As our feature notes, there is a painful irony to this scenario; after Germany, the UK has contributed more than any member state to REACH including massive amounts of its own data.
Competitive and intellectual property restrictions prevent British participants pasting their substance-specific data to the new UK REACH organisation. They must effectively repeat the whole process from scratch and shoulder the costs.
EU firms exporting to the UK will face similar requirements. If the stance of the most powerful EU and global chemical brand, BASF, is anything to judge by, some will simply cross the UK off their list as a market too small and troublesome to merit attention.
With reduced competitiveness in Europe through no fault of its own and an estimated £1 billion bill in the wake of the REACH debacle, the British chemicals industry will have an uncomfortable few years ahead.