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Government rebuked for lack of preparation on Brexit and chemicals

16 January 2019

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Committee has written to Defra Minister Thérèse Coffey MP highlighting renewed concerns about the Government's ill-preparedness to take on the regulation of chemicals and maintain chemical trade after Brexit.

The chemicals sector is the UK's second biggest manufacturing industry, worth £12.7 billion a year, and in 2017 73% of the UK's chemical imports came from the EU. On 7 November 2018 the Committee published its Brexit: chemical regulation report, which called on the Government to:

  • urgently explain how its independent regulatory regime would work;
  • put forward a more credible plan for collecting information on chemicals;
  • identify which UK agency will take on the role of chemical regulation; and
  • enable UK chemical businesses, including SMEs, to take steps to maintain their access to the EU market ahead of exit day.

The Minister responded to the Committee's findings on 4 January. It is the Committee's view that although the Government has now developed a more credible approach for collecting information and identified the body that will be in charge of chemical regulation, it appears to have failed on a number of counts, by not taking steps that would have allowed UK chemical businesses to maintain their EU market access, not providing assurance that the database needed to replace the EU chemicals database will be ready in time, and not setting out how chemical risk assessments will take place after Brexit. The Committee is also concerned about the impact on UK manufacturing and businesses of the potential loss of access to thousands of chemicals as a result of Brexit.

Lord Teverson, Chair of the Sub-Committee, said:

"Last year we were hugely concerned about the scale of work that needed to be done to maintain adequate chemical regulation in light of Brexit, and frankly the Minister's response to our report has done little to alleviate our concerns. It seems Brexit could leave us without a functioning and populated UK chemicals database, without an independent and transparent process for risk assessments, and without access to the thousands of chemicals produced by EU-led companies. I hope the Minister can provide further assurances on the measures that are being put in place, otherwise we risk a severe impact on the UK chemical and manufacturing industries, and potentially on human and environmental health."

The Committee has written to the Minister seeking further details on the Government's preparations, and has requested a response by the end of January.

Further information

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