An Introduction to UK REACH

Caroline Raine discusses UK REACH and explains what chemical manufacturers and importers to the UK will have to do at the end of the Brexit transition period. Caroline then explores what the UK has planned for REACH chemical compliance post 31 December 2020.


The UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016. The original leave date of 29 March 2019 passed and we are now in a transition period which ends on 31 December 2020.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) recently announced that the UK’s independent chemicals regulatory framework starts on 1 January 2021. Anyone making, selling or distributing chemicals in the UK and the EU needs to follow UK REACH and EU REACH rules.

In addition, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided information on other parts of the chemical regimes namely; Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), The Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation, Biocides, Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Plant Protection Product (PPP).


At the end of the Transition Period on 31 December 2020, the EU REACH Regulation will be brought into UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It will be implemented formally on 1 January 2021 and will be known as UK REACH.

UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (UK REACH) requires employers/companies to do the following:

  • EU REACH registrations held by UK-based companies will carry across directly into UK REACH, legally ‘grandfathering’ the registrations into the new regime.

  • Basic information will need to be given to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by 30 April 2021. And then full registration must be completed from 2, 4 or 6 years of 28 October 2021, depending on your tonnage band deadlines.

The UK will continue to maintain the main aims and principles of EU REACH, namely:

  • the “no data, no market” principle

  • the “last resort” principle on animal testing

  • access to information for workers

  • the precautionary principle.

Registration under UK REACH

Manufacturers and importers will need to register chemicals that access the UK market.

Where UK companies currently have an EU REACH registration these will be “grandfathered” into the UK REACH regime. This gives UK companies until 30 April 2021 to provide basic information to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This will be done via a new REACH-IT system (the online service ‘Comply with UK REACH’) which will go live on the 1 January 2021. Then registrations must be completed within 2, 4 or 6 years of 28 October 2021, depending on their Tonnage Band Deadlines.

The registration data is likely to be similar to EU REACH and, like EU REACH, those chemicals manufactured or imported in large tonnages and those substances with particularly hazardous properties are registered first.

Deadline Post 28 October 2021


Hazardous Property

2 years from 28 October 2021

1000 tonnes or more per year

  • carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMRs) — 1 tonne or more per year

  • Very toxic to aquatic organisms (acute or chronic) — 100 tonnes or more per year

  • Candidate list substances (as at 31 December 2020)

4 years from 28 October 2021

100 tonnes or more per year

Candidate list substances (as at 27 October 2023)

6 years from 28 October 2021

1 tonne or more per year

EU held registrations: UK downstream Users

There are many UK downstream users who will become first time registrants under UK REACH. This is because they do not hold an EU REACH registration as they are currently importing chemicals from an EU/EEA country.

These downstream users will need to ensure the substances they purchase are covered by a valid UK REACH registration. For these downstream users that rely on a registration held by an EU/EEA-based company nothing changes immediately. They can continue importing substances as they do now on 1 January 2021. And then by 27 October 2021, they must notify the HSE using a Downstream User Import Notification (DUIN) of their intention to continue importing substances. A new registration must then be submitted to the HSE within 2, 4 or 6 years of 28 October 2021.

The other solution for these downstream users is to encourage their EU/EEA supplier to appoint a UK-based Only Representative (OR) or change their supplier to a UK registered supplier.


From 1 January 2021, UK downstream users will no longer be able to rely on EU REACH authorisation decisions. All existing authorisations which have gone through the full authorisation process (and have a review date) will be recognised by UK REACH. This means that chemicals can continue to be used by UK companies who rely on these authorisations.

New authorisation applications, and authorisations waiting for EU/ECHA approval, must be submitted to UK REACH.

Northern Ireland

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the process for Northern Ireland businesses moving goods to and from the European Union under EU regulations will not change from 1 January 2021. Further guidance will be published in due course.


  • If you haven’t already started to prepare for Brexit, now is the time to start!

  • Understand your markets, your role in the supply chain and what your suppliers and customers will be doing post Brexit.

  • Understand that it is possible that your suppliers may no longer support your market and that you may have to take on responsibility for REACH registrations or need to source new suppliers.

  • Get ready now. Although there are very few actions that need to be taken on 1 January 2021, the timescales are still tight. UK companies have until 30 April 2021 to provide basic information to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).