Compass to chemical safety – The impact of Brexit on chemical safety
The United Kingdom, like any other EEA Member State, has been applying EU legislation in the field of chemical safety until now. However, as a result of Brexit and after the end of the transitional period (31 December 2020), the UK will become independent of chemical safety standards of the European Union.
What kind of changes this means in the field of chemical safety, for chemicals imported or exported from EEA countries?
The UK withdrew from the EU on 31 January 2020. This was followed by a transitional period ending on 31 December 2020. Therefore, the new system is going to enter into force on 1 January 2021. This means that trading with the UK becomes more complex, as the process is no longer taking place within the Community.
Among other things, the harmonized VAT system of the EU will not apply to the country, the system of customs payment will change, and in general, the administrative burden will increase.
Thus, if a company is established in the UK or in the EEA, but functions as a supplier/user/distributor in the UK, it should prepare for the following changes.
First of all, you should define the role of the company in the new system and its relationship with the UK and EEA markets. The UK is becoming a third party for EU countries. Therefore, UK-based users and distributors, who procure chemicals/mixtures from the EEA, are becoming importers, and this role is completely different from the current “distributor” status under the REACH regulation.
For guidance on how to define the roles – that are essential for a basic understanding/definition of REACH requirements – see the ECHA website or read our article ‘REACH obligations of manufacturers and importers’.
The importer/exporter role requires the supplier of the chemical to review its safety data sheet and the labelling accordingly.
The CLP, BPR, PIC regulations will be replaced by national legislation in the UK. In consequence, this will require the constant harmonization of EU and UK legislation, as well as the implementation of changes resulting from the differences.
However, there is no need to prepare for radical changes immediately, since the UK is taking over most of the legislation with minor amendments, so they can work effectively in the national context. For example, the CLP Regulation is replaced by the GB CLP Regulation, and the EU REACH Regulation by the UK REACH Regulation.
Now let’s examine the changes that we can expect in the most important chemical safety regulations.
In the case of the UK REACH regulation, the main principles are maintained (no data, no market; minimization of animal testing; access to information for workers; precautionary principle etc.). However, the UK REACH and the EU REACH regulations will operate independently.
If a company supplies or buys a chemical both in the EEA and the United Kingdom, it has to comply with the two separate laws.
A guidance on how to comply with UK REACH regulations can be found at this up-to-date link.
For help and further information, contact the national authority (HSE – The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety).
The UK is also taking over the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) with minor amendments.
If you want to apply for the approval of an active substance or the authorization of a biocidal product in the UK, you will have to contact HSE instead of ECHA. HSE is taking over ECHA’s current functions, but it will have its own procedures to process the submitted applications.
What happens if we already have a valid biocidal product authorization in the UK?
Previously granted biocidal product authorizations remain valid until their expiry date.
However, the authorization holder must be established in the UK within one year (until 1 January 2022). The approval of an active substance also remains valid until the normal expiry date, but the information originally submitted to the authority must also be submitted to HSE.
What happens if our application is currently being processed?
HSE will continue the process to grant a national authorization, however, we have to re-submit the information supporting the original application.
The UK version of the list of approved active substance suppliers (Article 95 list) will also be established according to the current EU list at the end of the transitional period.
Therefore, if a company is on the EU list, it is automatically added to the UK list as well, but in order to stay on it, you have to submit some additional information to HSE. There will be a two-year period to meet the requirements.
The Prior Informed Consent Regulation (PIC Regulation, 649/2012/EU Regulation) regulates the import and export of certain hazardous chemicals and imposes obligations on companies wishing to export these chemicals to non-EU countries.
After the transitional period, the EU PIC Regulation will no longer apply to companies established in the UK, in consequence, there will be no obligation to report export/import data.
You should check with HSE to see if you have a reporting obligation under the new national legislation.
On the other hand, the regulation remains in force for companies established in the EU, so if a chemical subject to the PIC is exported to or imported from the UK, it still has to be reported.
The EU CLP Regulation is replaced by the GB CLP Regulation, but it still accepts the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (UN GHS). Therefore, companies established in the UK remain responsible for the classification, labeling and packaging of chemicals placed on the market under the GB CLP Regulation. Likewise, there is no change in the requirements concerning when labelling is necessary in accordance with the GB CLP Regulation besides the transport markings, and the packaging requirements also remain the same.
Furthermore, suppliers established in the UK remain responsible for the identification (classification), testing and evaluation of potential physical, health and environmental hazards of chemicals.
Based on the available official information, the transition is expected to be efficient and smooth, since the UK is taking over most of the legislation with the above mentioned minor changes. Besides, there will be a certain period for companies to meet all the requirements.
However, we should review our situation under both legislations, and take the necessary additional steps (eg.: submitting information to HSE). Finally, in case of questions concerning the United Kingdom, we can turn to HSE (UK national authority) instead of ECHA.