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Consultation begins on UK REACH revision

The UK government has begun a consultation period with chemical suppliers, downstream users and other stakeholders on a planned alternative transitional registration model (ATRm) for the implementation of UK REACH. This follows many months of analysis by ministries and agencies and will run to 11 July, one week after a General Election that appears certain to see a change of government.

The proposal includes making chemical registration more targeted so as to avoid duplication of information that UK companies already submitted to EU REACH before Brexit. There are also proposed changes to make the restriction and reporting process more efficient, to introduce further protections against unnecessary animal testing, and to minimise impacts on trade. UK REACH, which was introduced in 2021 and retains the key principles covered by EU REACH, while seeking to make it operable in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

The government also sought to reduce the costs of the transition, which has been estimated at £2 billion. However, industry estimates that it will still cost £600 million to over £1 billion, on top of the £500 million UK businesses had already spent on EU REACH applications.

Trade bodies broadly welcomed what the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) described as “a tangible proposal from government coming to life”. The association was pleased to see the cost impact of duplicating registrations taken into account and the introduction of “a revised data set of on use and exposure information” rather than hazard.

“As ever with REACH, the devil is in the detail and the task is now to ensure that the legislation is workable for UK manufacturers across supply chains whilst continuing to protect human health and the environment,” it stated. “In a tough economic environment we hope that this announcement will signal future regulatory certainty which has been and remains a significant barrier for UK investment.”

The Chemical Business Association (CBA), the chemical supply chain body, echoed this. “From the outset, we highlighted the issues that UK REACH created, it was a huge barrier to trade, business and investment given its fundamental flaw in lack of access to data, and I have to say, progress has been frustrating and painfully slow,” said CEO Tim Doggett.

“Whilst we welcome the progress, there is still much work to be done. We must also recognise that the implementation of any model will require time and this is very relevant given that the first registration deadline is in October 2026. This is further complicated by the upcoming General Election,” he added. In addition, a second consultation will probably be required at some point.

Speaking as part of a panel on UK REACH at CHEM UK in Birmingham before the announcement, Darren Abrahams, partner at international legal practice Steptoe, said that obstacles remain. These potentially include the registration process may open duty holders up to legal risk, not least because certain information on the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) website is covered by IP rights.  “As long as the EU and Great Britain remain out of sync on regulatory priorities and data generation, there will be a perpetual need to grapple with divergence,” he added.

Environmental NGOs were less enthusiastic, with Chem Trust describing the ATRm as breaking a commitment to maintain and enhance environmental protections and to retain the ‘No data, no market’ principle. However, they welcomed the proposal to give regulators more powers to request information.

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