The British Coatings Federation has welcomed recent proposed changes to the forthcoming UK REACH regime as a small but welcome step in the right direction. However, it has also warned that these changes alone will not be enough to prevent the coatings sector – and wider chemicals industry – from being hit hard financially under the new post-Brexit regime. This is because it does still not resolve the underlying, inherent problems with the proposed UK REACH system namely duplication of the EU REACH system and re-registration of all substances in a new database. It is this wholesale re-registration – including full data dossiers duplicating registrations already held in the EU REACH system – which will prove so bureaucratic, burdensome, and costly to business.
The easiest and seemingly best way to avoid this wholesale duplication would be for the UK and EU to negotiate a data-sharing agreement as part of the ongoing Free Trade Agreement talks. This would potentially mean the UK regulator would maintain access to data already registered in the EU REACH database and avoid it having to be re-registered in the new UK REACH system. The BCF fully supports the UK Government’s attempts to achieve this result as part of the FTA talks.
However, if that data-sharing outcome is not achieved as part of an FTA, the Government needs to go further and initiate greater changes to the proposed UK REACH system. The time extension for substance registrations simply spreads the cost of the registration requirements over a longer period: it does not reduce the overall cost to business. Those additional costs will still make it uneconomic for some lower quantity substances to be registered in the UK REACH database, making them unavailable in the UK and leaving UK companies at a significant disadvantage to their EU counterparts. Alternatively, UK businesses will have to take on the registration costs themselves to maintain access to crucial substances, again putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
Tom Bowtell, CEO of the British Coatings Federation said:
“Along with others we have been actively and positively engaged in conversations with the UK Government for well over a year. It is good to see that the Government has listened to the genuine concerns industry has raised and amended their plans for UK REACH. However, while we welcome the changes as a step in the right direction, sadly we do not believe the scale of the amendments are enough to offset the large costs and inconveniences UK business will suffer at the hands of UK REACH system as it stands.
“We hope that a data-sharing agreement on chemicals can be negotiated between the UK and EU as part of an FTA, and fully support the Government as it continues to work for that outcome: it would seem to be the most practical solution to this problem. However, if such an agreement does not come to pass then we hope the Government will continue to engage with, and listen to, the continued concerns of industry. Ultimately, we hope they realise we are not crying wolf over the impact of UK REACH on companies using chemicals like the paint, coatings and printing ink industries, and agree to make further amendments to their plans that will mitigate the effect of the new UK regulatory system on business.”