CBA believes the UK Government’s proposals for a UK version of REACH in the event of a No Deal exit from the EU are unworkable

CBA has expressed its concern on behalf of the industry to the Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey MP, that the Government’s intention to transpose the European Union’s (EU) REACH provisions into UK law in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is unworkable.

CBA also believes the current proposals will damage the chemical supply sector and the many downstream UK manufacturing industries relying on chemicals for their products and processes.

In the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement, the only way these consequences can be avoided, in CBA’s view, is the negotiation of ‘Associate Membership’ of ECHA or an arrangement that guarantees continued regulatory compliance with the EU regime allowing continued access to European markets.

Based on the UK Government’s current proposals, the industry may well lose its EU markets. In 2017, 60% of the UK’s chemical exports went to the EU.

European Market

The chemical sector’s regulatory framework has a distinctive relationship with trade. Regulatory compliance is the key to market access. In this case, the European Union alone determines the nature and extent of the compliance required.

Compliance with EU requirements is non-negotiable. Failure to comply is a barrier to market access. Without market access there can be no trade.

Chemical Testing Data

The blanket transposition of EU REACH into UK law implies the need to create a database of registered chemicals similar to that already currently held by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

To achieve this objective requires access to the chemical testing data used to support the registration of substances under REACH.

In meetings with Ministers and officials, CBA has pointed out that UK companies do not own or have access to this data. They pay a fee to its owner(s) for Letters of Access generating an electronic token that enables the company to rely on the data set held by ECHA.

The terms of Letters of Access only provide REACH compliance for EU markets.

Testing data is owned by one or more companies – not by ECHA or UK businesses. Consortia of European companies own the vast majority of data. These facts render the Government’s current proposals unworkable.

Whatever is contained in the final Withdrawal Agreement in respect of this issue, selling access to testing data to a third country remains a commercial decision for its current owner(s) and will not be governed by the EU’s data-sharing rules.

Animal Testing

If existing test data is unavailable, or permission for its use cannot be secured, then a significant amount of animal testing would be required to recreate acceptable standards of data. Alternative forms of testing may be appropriate in some cases, but higher levels of animal testing should be anticipated.


The business cost of establishing UK REACH after a ‘No Deal’ Brexit is considerable. UK chemical firms now hold over 12,000 EU REACH registrations covering almost 6,000 chemical substances.

The registration fees and data-sharing contributions funding this process already total many millions of pounds. Yet, in recent meetings, Ministers appear indifferent to the further costs faced by chemical firms as a consequence of establishing UK REACH. Business cannot sustain the additional costs implicit in the Government’s proposals.


The Government has a set a two-year target for the UK REACH entity to acquire all the relevant testing data on UK products. This timescale is unrealistic.

To put the UK Government’s two-year target into context, the EU’s REACH regime took ten years to implement – from 1 June 2008 when pre-registration began to the final REACH deadline by 1 June 2018.