In the week that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) added four new substances to its candidate list, the UK’s chancellor pledged to diverge from EU rules, which could include dealignment from the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) regulation. If the UK is no longer a REACH member, any UK supplier will need an EU partner to re-register chemicals, which will create a large burden on small businesses.
On 16 January, ECHA announced the addition of four new substances of very high concern to its candidate list, which now contains 205 substances. Three have been added due to their toxicity to reproduction and the fourth due to a combination of other properties of concern. These include diisohexyl phthalate, 2-benzyl-2-dimethylamino-4’morpholinobutyrophenone, 2-methyl-1-(4-methylthiophenyl)-2-morpholinopropan-1-one and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and its salts.
Similar to the automotive industry, the European chemicals market is highly integrated, mutually dependent and the sector includes thousands of SMEs. The REACH regulation is highly regarded globally, and many countries, including China, Korea, Japan, Brazil and Taiwan have developed similar version in harmonisation. Once the UK becomes a third country, it will be required to re-register its chemicals – a process which includes re-testing and re-purchasing test results. Similarly, EU suppliers would be required to register their chemicals through a UK agency to sell in the UK. SMEs would need to dedicate significant resources – both money and time – to recreate a registration that is already in place. In this case, regulatory divergence would bring higher prices, higher costs and increased bureaucracy should UK companies want to engage in chemicals trade with Europe or many other third countries.