Brexit Series #1: REACH and Brexit: Latest Position

From our UK REACH Brexit expert John Hodgson:

Subject to ratification of the EU Withdrawal Agreement by both the UK and EU parliaments in January 2020, it is anticipated that the UK will formally exit from the European Union at 11pm, UK time, on 31st January 2020.

It is expected that the UK parliament will ratify the withdrawal agreement. Likewise, it is anticipated that the European Parliament will also ratify the withdrawal agreement. Formal ratification is expected by 29th January 2020.

Assuming that the withdrawal agreement is indeed ratified, and that the UK therefore leaves the European Union with a ‘deal’*, then a transitional ‘implementation period’ will commence, during which negotiations regarding the nature of the EU/UK future relationship will take place.

During this implementation period, there will be little or no impact on supply chains relating to substances which fall within the scope of REACH regulation EC 1907/2006. This is because EU law will continue to apply during the implementation period.

Chemical manufacturers, formulators, importers, downstream users and Only Representatives based in the UK will be required to follow the same rules as their equivalents in other EU member states during this period.

At present, the UK Government intends that the implementation period should not extend beyond 2020. It is therefore anticipated that the implementation period will last 11 months. As such, assuming ratification of the withdrawal agreement, then there is no immediate requirement for action to be taken by UK or EU based organisations in order to maintain access to the EU27 or UK markets respectively.

Retaining EU and UK Market Access After the Implementation Period
It is not currently possible to determine with any certainty what type of future UK/EU relationship will be negotiated during the implementation period. However, recent UK Government interviews and media coverage indicate that divergence from EU law should be expected. As such, chemical manufacturers, formulators, importers, downstream users and Only Representatives based in both the UK and the EU must put in place effective strategies to mitigate the potential impacts of Brexit.

Assuming a separate ‘UK REACH’ regime enters into force from 1st January 2021 (note that under the ‘The REACH etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/758)’ and subsequent amendments, the EU REACH Regulation has been adapted for the domestic UK context) then companies supplying ‘in scope’ substances in the UK will need to ensure that a valid ‘UK REACH’ registration has been completed by an actor within their supply chain. Likewise, for UK based legal entities wishing to retain (or commence) market access in the EU, a separate EU REACH registration must have been submitted by an actor in their supply chain.

Our experts have a wealth of experience of supporting clients with all their REACH support needs. We have offices in the UK and across Europe, and so can support ongoing access to both markets, regardless of your location. In addition, we have been involved in testing the UK Government’s developing IT system to support the anticipated go-live of a separate ‘UK REACH’ regime, and so can provide detailed guidance on what to expect under ‘UK REACH’ in 2021.

Contact our experts for strategic and regulatory advice relating to REACH and Brexit

REACH Team Leader
Phone: +44 (0)1937 543136

*Note: A ‘No Deal’ Brexit scenario is still possible, if either the UK or the European Parliament fail to ratify the withdrawal agreement. If this occurs, then immediate action will be necessary for UK-based registrants wishing to retain access to EU markets. Please contact our consultants if you would like to know more. Further information on ‘no deal’ planning is available on both the UK Health and Safety Executive and ECHA Websites

Useful Links:
UK Health and Safety Executive: Regulating chemicals (REACH) and Brexit
ECHA: How will the UK withdrawal affect you?