As the UK’s legal system finds its feet post-Brexit, stakeholders have mixed feelings about the changes it could bring
Four months into the UK being fully divorced from the EU, the chemical industry has had its first taste of operating under a separate legal system for chemicals. But rather than get their teeth into a fully thought-out version of the country’s own Reach (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals) legislation, companies are facing a law that is just beginning to evolve.
Initially a direct copy of its EU counterpart, the practicalities and consequences of implementing UK Reach (the law’s official name, despite applying only in England, Scotland and Wales) are playing out gradually. The last few months were defined by companies grandfathering their EU chemical registrations to the UK system. If done by the 30 April deadline, this guaranteed continued access to the British market.
The process went relatively smoothly, according to County Durham-based chemical manufacturer Thomas Swan, whose in-house regulatory experts prepared early. ‘In 2018, we started surveying all our suppliers to make sure they were aware of the potential new UK registration requirements,’ says regulatory affairs manager, John Mackenzie. By the time UK Reach came into force, the company was certain that its supply chain was solid. Thomas Swan has so far grandfathered 24 EU substance registrations to the UK system, ‘without any major issues’.
London-based consultancy firm ERM sees smaller companies, who don’t usually have a regulatory expert, struggling more. The grandfathering deadline might well have passed by many businesses, says consultant Louise Boardall: ‘A lot of small companies will have been caught out which is quite sad because they face difficult times now.’
Royal Society of Chemistry, 10 May 2021