The UK is currently set to leave the EU on 29th March 2019.
The UK government’s preferred plan is for a negotiated agreement with the EU, and this would give a transition period from 29th March 2019 to 31 December 2020 in which to discuss the future relationship with the EU. During the transition period, the rules governing chemical supply, such as the REACH and CLP Regulations would continue, so there would be no disruption to supply chains.
In the future relationship discussion document, [i] the UK government indicates its intention to partner with ECHA even after the transition period, presumably to allow REACH registration and CLP notifications made by UK companies to continue to be valid within the EU, and prevent the UK government from having to duplicate the functions of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, there are currently no examples of a non-EU country partnering with ECHA in this way.
Parliament voted down the EU Withdrawal Act, enhancing the prospect of a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal exit would burden all UK companies having business partners in the remaining EU member states, particularly regarding trade tariffs, VAT accounting, border controls, and haulage.[ii]
Brexit and CLP Regulation overview
The chemical industry will be especially vulnerable to the sudden change in regulatory landscape should the UK leave the EU without an agreement. The EU REACH Regulation is discussed in an earlier article:
The current EU CLP Regulation gives the rules for classifying chemical substances and mixtures according to their hazard, and the symbols and statutory phrases required on their labels. These rules will be replicated in UK law, so in this respect there will continue to be harmonised legislation between the EU and the UK.
However, after a no-deal Brexit, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will have no access to three important sources of information that are available to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA):
1. The list of harmonised classifications (CLP Regulation, Article 36).
Annex VI of the CLP Regulation lists around 4300 substances with harmonised classifications and label information, with the result that all these substances will show the same labelling throughout the EU. The UK will transpose this list into UK law (with a change of name to mandatory classifications), giving continuity and harmonisation with the EU for the time being, but the UK will not have access to ECHA documentation for any new proposals for harmonised classifications, so the UK authority will choose between implementing EU decisions on harmonised classifications, or making their own decisions with the possibility of divergence from the EU, meaning UK companies will in time require different hazard labelling for the UK and EU markets.
2. The classification and labelling inventory (CLP Regulation, Article 40).
ECHA’s Classification and Labelling Inventory (CLI) lists all the hazard classifications for chemical substances notified or registered in the EU. It contains harmonised classifications (agreed at EU level), classifications from REACH registration dossiers (agreed by industry consortia), and a miscellany of hazard classifications for substances that do not require REACH Registration, such as low-tonnage substances.
The HSE is expected to take the CLI from EU legislation and transpose it into UK law. After Brexit day, if a UK company imports a particular substance that is not in the EU inventory, then they will have to notify that substance to the UK inventory. If that product is then exported from the UK to a remaining EU country, then an EU notification to the EU CLI will also be required. The timetable for notifying to the EU CLI is within one month of ‘placing on the market’.
3. Poison centre information (CLP Regulation, Article 45)
The EU is mid-way through harmonising the way industry supplies information to poison control centres, which then are able to advise people who are accidentally exposed to hazardous chemicals. ECHA has developed Poison Centres Notification (PCN) tools for industry to submit information on hazardous substances and mixtures, including composition, toxicological, and other information.
For consumer use products, industry should make the poison centre notification by January 2020. This involves significant work, because the labels for the hazardous product has to show a Unique Formula Identifier (UFI), that unequivocally identifies the product, so the company should develop tracking facilities for this purpose.
Details of UK
preparations for Poison Centre notifications are sketchy at present. In a
recent presentation, the HSE representative indicated that the Department of
Health are expected to take the lead, and the HSE were themselves pushing for
clarification in in this area.Alchemy
Compliance has 22 years of regulatory experience with industrial chemicals, in
EU REACH Registration, safety data sheet compilation (EU, US, and beyond), and
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[i] The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union; Cm 9593, July 2018.
[ii] Partnership pack: preparing for changes at the UK border after a ‘no deal’ EU Exit; H M Government; December 2018.