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European Chemicals Agency acts to head off Brexit chaos

Europe’s chemical agency will recognize UK products after country exits the

by Alex Scott
February 13, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 7

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the body responsible for implementing the European Union’s chemical legislation, is changing its rules to accommodate UK chemical firms in an attempt to avert trade chaos when the UK exits—or Brexits—the EU on March 29.

12,378: Number of REACH chemical registrations by UK firms

13%: UK’s share of overall REACH registrations

Source: ECHA. Data is for end of year 2018.

Despite two years of negotiating, the EU and UK have yet to strike a trade deal ahead of Brexit. If no deal is brokered by March 29, chemicals exported to the EU by UK firms will no longer comply with the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program and will be rejected.

To avoid this scenario, ECHA will open a “Brexit window” between March 12 and March 29 when it will allow UK chemical firms to transfer the REACH registration of their products to a representative in a country that will remain in the EU. Cross-border trade disruption is still anticipated, however, because starting on March 30 all goods entering the EU from the UK will be subject to additional customs and excise procedures.

The UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA) and Cefic, Europe’s leading chemical industry association, are repeating their call for UK and EU legislators to strike a free-trade agreement. “What our industry and the whole economy needs is an agreed Brexit deal,” say Cefic Director General Marco Mensink and CIA CEO Steve Elliott in a joint statement.

Brexit is also a threat to UK scientific research and the training of UK scientists in the EU, according to a new report by the UK’s House of Lords. The UK currently receives about $6.5 billion annually from the EU for scientific research—equivalent to 4% of all UK science funding—but this will disappear after Brexit. The UK government has agreed to fund only 44% of this sum and only until 2020.

Terms have yet to be reached for managing existing EU-UK research projects in the absence of a Brexit deal. The report also concludes that international scientific collaborations involving the UK won’t be replicated.


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