In the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘breakthrough’ in Brexit talks last week, the future of regulations in the chemical industry has been highlighted by the Chemical Industries Association CEO, Steve Elliot, in a letter to Environment Minister Michael Gove.
Image: Steve Elliott at the 2016 Chemicals Northwest Awards; Credit: SCI
The UK’s main aim should be that ‘cars continue to run, planes continue to fly, and medicines continue to work’ post-Brexit, the letter reads, asking the government ‘to do all it can to remain within or as close as possible’ to the EU’s chemicals regulation programme, REACH.
‘REACH is far from perfect but it is our belief that the best way of minimising any disruption to supply chains […] is by staying within the regime and our European regulatory body’ explained Elliott.
The concerns raised in the letter are reflective of many science-based industries in the UK. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry for example, recently highlighted the problems that the ‘82 million packs of medicines [that] move between the UK and EU every single month without delay’ would have if regulations did not remain consistent.
The letter comes amid growing speculation that Gove and fellow pro-Brexit MPs, including Boris Johnson and David Davis, are preparing to step up their campaign for a clean break from the EU, with the group considering May’s promise for no hard border in Northern Ireland as a sign that she is favouring a ‘softer’ Brexit.
Gove has been one of the most vocal MPs in terms of regulatory divergence after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, having delivered a list of Brexit ‘demands’ to May – in a joint-letter with Johnson – that included visions of trading agreements similarly held by Singapore
The publication of the Industrial Strategy White Paper in late November was also not enough to calm growing concerns from industry, with no detail on how the government plans to ‘align policies and regulations to make it easier for businesses to grow, promote innovation, and for products to succeed on the market’ as assured.
A spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said: ‘Our priority is to maintain an effective regulatory system for the management and control of chemicals to safeguard human health and the environment, respond to emerging risks and allow trade with the EU that is as frictionless as possible.’
By Georgina Hines