Trade union Prospect warns that a no-deal Brexit raises safety fears for the chemical sector. According to Prospect, ‘chemical chaos’ could arise due to uncertainty for the industry and its employees.
So, how has Brexit sparked concerns over the UK’s chemical trade?
Lack of regulation
While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been forced to compile a list of dangerous pesticides that should be kept out of the country, members of Prospect are concerned that the bans will not come into force in the UK before the exit date in March 2019.
British chemical manufacturers and industry experts believe that the industry will be compromised by Brexit as harmful chemicals, including bee-harming pesticides, may still be allowed into the UK.
Lord Teverson, Chairman of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, has said: “Not only is the chemical sector the UK’s second biggest manufacturing industry, with an annual turnover of £32bn, but it also provides substances that go into products we all use every day.”
“It’s vital for both human and environmental health that these substances are managed safely after Brexit, and in a way that allows chemical trade between the UK and EU to continue.”
Currently, the UK has access to the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) database. This database holds information on over 21,000 substances that are made in and imported into the UK.
REACH is managed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), who has stated that “British participation [in ECHA] will come to an end” after it leaves the EU. Therefore, if a no-deal Brexit takes place, this information will have to be re-captured as the UK will no longer have access to the system.
Minister Thérèse Coffey MP has revealed that if the UK is unable to capture data on chemicals that have been registered under REACH, companies could face the added costs and regulatory burdens of having to register chemicals in two different systems.
Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary at Prospect has said: “There are potentially worrying implications here for the UK – moving from a situation where we are a key player in all of this to an almost passive bystander with much less control over what goes onto the shelves.”
What this means
It is evident that the UK could be left vulnerable to chemicals of concern that it has previously been able to ban.
A no-deal Brexit is a possibility and if this is the case by 21st January 2019, the UK will have to present a new plan of action to Parliament.
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