There has been much debate about the degree to which UK REACH - the UK's new chemicals regulation - will mirror its equivalent in the EU going forward. In what has been reported to be the last ever session of the House of Lords subcommittee on EU environment before disbanding following the UK's exit from the EU, the Lords grilled the Secretary of State for the Environment George Eustice on the progress of UK REACH, the UK's access to the European Chemicals Agency's database, and the potential for regulatory alignment.
Here are some of the take-away points:
- The Secretary of State told the committee to expect "great similarities" between UK REACH and EU REACH going forward, disappointing those hopeful for wholesale reform of the principles of chemicals regulation in the UK.
- At the same time, the committee was told that regulatory alignment with the EU was "not appropriate for an economy of the size of the UK". Coupled with the fact that the Environment Bill, currently before Parliament, includes express provisions for amendments on the operation of UK REACH to be made by regulations, it is highly likely that a degree of reform to UK REACH is on the cards.
- Cold water was pored on industry hopes that the huge costs of replicating the European Chemicals Agency's database could be avoided: despite agreeing that it was "the most sensible thing to do", the Secretary of State admitted that it was conditional on regulatory alignment, which the UK has ruled out.
Responding to a question on how aligned the UK regime would be with EU REACH in the short to medium term, Mr Eustace said there would be "great similarities" between the two.