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Government rebuked by Lords for lack of preparation on Brexit and chemicals

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-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 Committee's report Brexit: chemical regulation, published in November 2018, warned that unless the Government can negotiate continued UK participation in REACH, the EU's chemical regulation system, chemicals registered by UK companies won't be valid for sale in the EU and the UK will have incomplete safety information about chemicals being used in the UK after Brexit.

The Minister has responded to the report, and 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, the overall response is “vague and insufficient” and the Government 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
  • 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. Read the Committee's letter here and the Government's response here.

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