Chemical legislation is vital for trade post-Brexit

Posted on 13 Aug 2018 by Maddy White

The Brexit white paper released by the government last month, proposed that chemical legislation is crucial for UK manufacturing, and that Britain should continue to be regulated by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

The Brexit white paper proposes to keep trade between the UK and EU “frictionless” - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The Brexit white paper proposes to keep trade between the UK and EU “frictionless” – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Impacting industries such as coatings, pharmaceutical and aerospace, chemical legislation will be essential in ensuring trade is not disrupted for these sectors.

The Brexit white paper also proposed to keep trade between the UK and EU “frictionless” by introducing zero tariffs across goods for when Britain leaves Europe next March.

Tom Bowtell, CEO of British Coatings Federation (BCF), which recently won Trade Association of the Year for the second consecutive year, sat down with The Manufacturer and said how crucial chemical regulation is to the coatings industry.

From the automotive sector, to aerospace and food packaging, the coatings industry contributes £2.8bn to the UK economy and supports a wider £150bn supply chain, according to BCF.

Bowtell said: “It is regulations around chemicals that impacts our members. The risk to us is, if we fall out of the European regime, it is going to become more expensive to buy chemicals in the UK, and it maybe even difficult to get hold of certain chemicals. So there is a big knock on impact throughout the whole of manufacturing, if we can’t get chemical regulations inline with Europe.”

He explained that through joint lobbying, BCF convinced the government that it was critical to the UK, as part of the Brexit deal, to consider chemical regulation. This resulted in the prime minister proposing that staying within the European Chemicals Agency was vital to Britain.

Bowtell said: “What is not clear, is the European response to that. We need to know what the trade deal is as soon as possible.”

Case study: Airedale Chemical

Daniel Marr, head of marketing at global chemical manufacturer, Airedale Chemical, said to The Manufacturer on the potential impacts of the Brexit white paper for Airedale Chemical and industry.

He said: “It’s a positive sign that the UK is hoping to maintain a strong relationship with ECHA, in order to help limit the testing of products; this helps businesses like us at Airedale Chemical ensure investment in legislation to date has been valuable.”

Marr spoke about heightened legislation for the chemical industry and how further testing would be detrimental to the sector, he said: “Our industry is already so highly regulated, and rightly so, that introducing barriers such as testing products separately in the UK and EU could be detrimental to firms of our size.”

He concluded: “With Brexit impending it’s absolutely crucial at this stage that continuity is key to help ensure UK firms are not hindered in a wider European or global market.”

Bowtell explained that BCF perceived the white paper to be a good compromise, but that the organisation don’t think the wider public considered the movement of products and chemicals during the EU referendum vote.

From the automotive, to aerospace and food packaging, the coatings industry contributes £2.8bn to the UK economy – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

When asked if he believes the European Union will agree to the Brexit white paper plans, Bowtell replied: “It doesn’t feel very likely at the moment does it? It is so hard to know.”

Decisions are often made on timescales that are much longer than government cycles, and in the case of BCF, members and customers are looking at much longer investment cycles, 10-15 years in many cases. This therefore doesn’t necessarily align with government initiatives.

Bowtell concluded: “It has always been an issue having a longer window of clarity on the government’s manufacturing, the industrial strategy is a good start to that, but without a good Brexit deal the industrial strategy, is window-dressing.”