The UK chemicals sector has warned that attempts to create an affordable post-Brexit regulatory regime for the industry were floundering and risked causing “irreparable damage” to British businesses.
The frustrations emerged after more than 18 months of negotiations between industry representatives and the government over how to build a regulatory system for a sector that is vital to UK manufacturing. More than 95 per cent of manufactured goods contain chemicals.
After Brexit, the UK quit the EU’s “Reach” chemical management system but has repeatedly delayed the introduction of its own arrangements after a government impact assessment discovered it would cost the industry £2bn to duplicate the safety data already held in Brussels.
However, attempts to broker a deal with industry to reduce the cost of re-registering 22,400 chemicals with a copycat UK “Reach” system run by the government’s Health and Safety Executive are failing to bear fruit, according to senior industry figures.
Tom Bowtell, the chief executive of the British Coatings Federation, called for a “reset” in the negotiations, adding that talks on creating a lighter-touch model were “not addressing many of the concerns that led to that pause in the first place”.
The industry argues it is needlessly expensive to duplicate registrations where chemicals have already passed safety tests in the EU, but for legal and intellectual property reasons, the underlying data for those registrations is not available to the UK regulator.
However, conservation and environmental groups have said that unless the UK regulator is in full possession of the data, it cannot regulate effectively.
But Bowtell said a “suboptimal” application of UK Reach could cost British industry billions of pounds, and accused the government of lacking the “application and creativity” required to find a solution.
“If genuine progress is not realised quickly, there is the risk of irreparable damage not just to the UK chemicals sector but to downstream users and formulators of chemicals,” he said at the BCF’s annual conference.
Geoff Mackrill, the boss of Hull-based Teal & Mackrill, a speciality paints manufacturer that employs 70 people, said the prospect of UK Reach requiring full duplication of existing EU chemical registrations could cost him crucial suppliers.
With some chemicals only occurring at trace levels in certain products, he warned that several European manufacturers would inevitably…
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