The shape of chemicals regulation in the UK post Brexit took further steps forward on Monday 19 October 2020 when long-anticipated legislation was laid before Parliament.   The draft REACH etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 amends the existing blueprint for the an independent chemicals regulation that replicates EU REACH and gives us a firm picture of chemicals regulation in the British Isles from 1 January 2021.

The principle amendments to the existing blueprint are as follows:

  1. The draft regulations give effect to the EU-UK Protocol of Northern Ireland by ensuring that the territorial extent of Westminster's independent chemicals regime only extends to England, Scotland and Wales.   As such, the proposed 'UK REACH' will never come into being, welcome instead 'GB REACH'. 
  2. Northern Ireland will remain in EU REACH: provisions have been made to protect imports from NI into GB and to address different REACH enforcement regimes within NI and within GB.
  3. Importantly for industry, the draft regulation extends the periods for data submissions to the new HSE REACH IT database known as 'Comply With UK REACH' (presumably that database will also get a rebrand).  For those who can benefit from the more lenient timeframes (on which subject, see below) until the autumn of 2023, 2025 or 2027, depending on hazard properties and tonnage bands. 

There has been a fair amount of confusion in the market about what may yet be achieved on chemicals regulation so, now that we have what is likely to be the last piece of the jigsaw for GB REACH, it's important to set out what it doesn't do:

  • There is no 'associate membership' of EU REACH or any such similar tie-up: such concepts, floated by Theresa May's government, have been roundly dismissed by the current government, most recently by Michael Gove who criticised the "anti-science and anti-innovation"  approach of the EU and claimed that an independent chemicals regime free from EU control is the inevitable consequence of leaving the EU. 
  • It does not avoid the need to replicate the ECHA database within GB: see our August blog for comments on the £1billion price tag put on this replication process by industry
  • It does not give all market participants years to submit data: these new deadlines for data submission are to protect existing UK businesses who held EU REACH registrations in the UK or who are currently reliant on imports from the EU. New trading relationships established after 1 January 2021 are not protected and must comply from the start. 

There are only two months to go until GB REACH is born and only now do we have the complete picture.  Preparations need to start in earnest.