COMMONS

The Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum

21 December 2016

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching a second inquiry into the future of environmental law and policy following the result of the EU Referendum. It will focus on the future of the European Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).

REACH

The EU has adopted several pieces of legislation on chemicals, which are primarily 'trade regulations' harmonising the conditions under which chemicals can be placed on the market. The aim of REACH is to protect human health and the environment. REACH shifts the responsibility from public authorities to industry with regards to assessing and managing the risks posed by chemicals and providing appropriate safety information for their users.

REACH is constantly evolving, having been amended 38 times since it was enacted in 2006. REACH is enforced by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and relatively little of its regulation has been transposed into UK law.

EU environmental law

It has been estimated that the chemicals industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing exporter. The industry produces products which are fundamental to many other sectors of the economy – from energy to clothing, motor manufacturing to agriculture, food standards to children's toys.

The Prime Minister has said that leaving the EU will involve converting the body of EU law into British law (via a "Great Repeal Bill"). However, the Government has said that up to a third of EU environmental law cannot be simply 'copy pasted' into UK law and will require additional work to ensure that the UK maintains the current level of environmental protection. REACH was cited in the evidence to our Future of the Natural Environment inquiry as one of these challenging areas.

This inquiry will examine the future of chemicals regulation in the UK after the Referendum result, with a particular focus on the possible impacts on environmental protection, public safety and the UK chemicals industry.

The Committee invites submissions on some or all of the questions below:

Transposition

  • What particular challenges will the UK Government face when it seeks to transpose REACH into UK law through the “Great Repeal Bill”?
  • How far will the UK’s ability to effectively transpose REACH depend on negotiations with other Member States and the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU (e.g. Single Market membership)?
  • What role should the devolved administrations play in setting the regulatory environment in this area? How should any divergences in policy be managed?

Administrative, Policy and Regulatory Implications

  • How should administrative and enforcement responsibilities, which are currently being carried out by the European Commission or EU Agencies (such as ECHA), be transferred to domestic bodies?
  • What are the likely implications for industry in terms of regulation, environmental and safety standards?
  • Does the UK Government have the requisite expertise and resources to take on these tasks?

Future of Chemical Industry

  • What scope is there for the UK to pursue a divergent approach to chemicals regulation from the EU once the process of leaving has been completed?
  • What principles should a UK chemicals regulation regime follow?
  • What are the likely practical implications of having a UK-only chemicals regulatory policy for:
    1. The Environment?
    2. Public Safety?
    3. UK Industry
  • What key features should any new regime have to ensure these are not compromised?

Deadline for submissions

We are keen to inform the Government’s thinking on this issue as soon as possible. For this reason we are asking for submissions by 6 pm on Friday 20 January 2017. The word limit is 3,000 words. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the inquiry page.

The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear. 

Further information

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