European chemical industry calls for continued UK engagement in ECHA after Brexit
16th April 2018
The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) have taken note of the idea advanced in Theresa May’s Mansion House speech of 2 March for the UK to remain part of EU agencies, including ECHA, possibly in the form of associate membership. However, when the EU issued its draft guidelines for the negotiations of the future EU-UK relationship on March 7, expected to be approved at the European Council of March 22-23, 2018, the draft text did not include any mention of associate membership of EU agencies.
While understanding that this should be seen in the context of the overall EU negotiating position, this omission gives them considerable cause for concern. They would like to highlight that the continued involvement of the UK in ECHA, is not only in the interest of the chemical industry and downstream user industries on both sides of the Channel, but also in the interest of the public at large. Indeed, the implementation of REACH and associated legislation has benefitted from UK involvement and it would be in their mutual interest for this to continue. According to them, losing UK expertise would only weaken the significant progress made in the evaluation and regulation of chemicals.
They stated that, with a focus on ensuring protection of human health and the environment in Europe from chemicals, REACH is fast becoming an international reference standard in chemicals management. Establishing a separate UK agency would take years to achieve, and at significant cost threaten to waste a decade’s worth of investment into chemical safety by government and industry. According to Cefic and CIA, a continued partnership between the UK and ECHA would avoid duplicate testing and related costs under REACH, as well as assuring continuity of supply to key customer industries such as aerospace, automotive and pharmaceuticals, all of whom rely upon access to chemicals from both sides of the channel.
It is the view of Cefic and the CIA, that the best way forward, the one presenting least risk to trade, investment and supply chains, would be for the EU-27 and UK to jointly examine models for continued collaboration and regulatory consistency.