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Trade

Relief from Brexit headache will be short

UK chemistry enterprise’s worst fears avoided, for now

by Alex Scott
April 16, 2019

20190416lnp3-Brexitbomb.jpg
Credit: C&EN
Brexit's impact has been delayed until October 31 but it could still have an explosive impact on the UK chemicals enterprise.

To the relief of the chemistry enterprise, the date that Britain exits—or Brexits—the European Union has been delayed from April 12 until Oct. 31 to give both parties more time to come to basic divorce terms. But for parties that have proven poor negotiators, that’s not much time.

Exposed to Brexit

EU-UK trade would be adversely impacted by a no-deal Brexit

60% of UK chemical exports, worth more than $39 billion annually, go to the EU.

75% of UK chemical imports come from the EU.

45 million doses of medicines move from the UK to the EU every month, and 37 million go the other way.

Source: CIA, BIA.

Until the EU agreed on April 10 to delay the date of Brexit, concern had been mounting that the UK would leave without any agreement on trade and regulation. Such a scenario, dubbed a no-deal Brexit, would almost certainly lead to major cross-border trade disruption. A no-deal Brexit would also adversely affect scientific research by cutting funding and restricting the movement of scientists between the EU and UK.

Although now less likely, a no-deal Brexit could still happen. The UK chemical industry is calling on UK politicians to ensure that terms are settled well before Oct. 31. “For chemical companies, that means securing as quickly as possible a deal that avoids tariff and nontariff barriers, provides regulatory continuity, and ensures continued access to skilled people,” says the Chemical Industries Association (CIA), a UK industry group.

Among CIA’s greatest fears about a no-deal Brexit is major delays at borders due to the imposition of additional customs checks on imported and exported chemicals.

“All politicians now need to show collective responsibility—a quality that has been sadly lacking—to lead and deliver a solution for our country that helps boost business confidence and greater investment in the UK,” the CIA says.

Steve Bates, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), is also calling on politicians to strike a deal as soon as possible. “No-deal Brexit would mean the biggest disintegration of the complex regulated medicines market across Europe in terms of regulation, cross-border movement of goods, comparative pricing, and intellectual property,” Bates says.

All politicians now need to show collective responsibility
The Chemical Industries Association

Avoiding a no-deal Brexit is also a priority for the UK’s scientific research organizations. “If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it will impact on scientific research immediately and could take years to rebuild,” says the Royal Society, an independent UK science body.

Once basic divorce terms have been set, the EU and UK will have up to two years to determine specific policies, such as how respective chemical regulations would be recognized, and the role UK scientists might play in EU-funded collaborative science projects.

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