Last reviewed 10 June 2020

The Government will activate its own independent REACH regime from 1 January 2021 when the Brexit transition period ends and will not be seeking associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), environment minister confirms.

In a letter to MP Philip Dunne, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “Based on our commitment to having control of our own laws, the UK will establish its own independent chemicals regulatory framework, UK REACH, from 1 January 2021. This, combined with our position on not remaining within the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice (ECJ), means that we are not seeking associate membership of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and participation in EU REACH. “

REACH is the main EU legislation for the regulation of chemicals in the EU (the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation). REACH requires substances that are manufactured in or imported into the European Economic Area (EEA) to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which also provides a regulatory framework to control or restrict the use of hazardous substances based on those registrations.

UK trade in chemicals is highly intertwined with the EU with over 50% of chemical exports in 2018 going to EU Member states, and over 70% of chemical imports coming from the EU. Earlier statements from the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) and others, argue that any future partnership between the UK and ECHA needs to be "significantly closer" than existing agreements between the agency and authorities in non-EU countries.

In a British Plastics magazine report, a spokesperson for the CIA said: “Of key importance to our sector is that any future agreement recognises the economic and environmental logic of remaining closely connected to the REACH chemical regulation and to this end it is encouraging that the UK’s proposal for a Free Trade Agreement proposes a sectoral chemicals annex, underpinned by data and information sharing mechanisms and a Memorandum of Understanding.”

Pow states that the Government wants to keep the transition to UK REACH as simple and straightforward as possible to minimise the burdens and costs for the industry. “We will not diverge for the sake of it and are avoiding change for change’s sake. For example, in building the Comply with UK REACH IT system, we have made sure it will work very much like the ECHA owned REACH-IT, including the same software requirements and many of the processes that businesses have been using and understand,” the letter to MP Philip Dunne reads.