CLP and Brexit: what are the possible outcomes?

After the large Conservative victory in the General Election, there are a lot of rumours swirling around in the media about when Brexit will happen, what shape it will take and so on, so I thought I’d give you the state of play for CLP, as far as I can make out.

At the time of writing, 18th December 2019, what we know is:

  • the Conservative government has a huge majority
  • every prospective Conservative MP was required to back the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), so it should get through the UK parliament
  • the current proposed date of Brexit is 31st January 2020
  • the WA includes an interim period after Brexit when the UK would continue under ECHA rules for some, or all, chemical regulations which they manage (in theory this would mean CLP, REACH, Biocides and PIC, although I’m not sure whether PIC would be included)
  • there are some tweaks to the WA before it goes through the UK parliament, including not extending the interim period beyond 31st December 2020

So, as far as I can tell, if the Conservatives get their way, the situation would be that we would Brexit on 31st January, and that although we would have our own VAT regime, there would not be changes to eg tariffs on chemical trade between the UK and EU, and UK and rest of the world; and that the chemical regulations situation would be “business as usual” (although PIC may not be included in this).

Deal scenario

If we are still part of ECHA, this would theoretically mean that for CLP:

  • UK addresses would be acceptable on CLP labels for EU trade
  • C&L notification would be required to ECHA for chemicals imported into the UK and not registered for REACH (different rules apply for substances as-is, and substances contained in mixtures)
  • UK companies could use the Poison Centre Notification Portal (once its fully up and running)
  • UK companies would still hold EU REACH registrations, so companies should legally use the REACH registration CLP classifications if they are in the REACH supply chain

But are these assumptions correct?

  • If we have Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU, so I am not sure if UK addresses would be acceptable
  • Similarly, would a UK address be acceptable for C&L notification?
  • And for Poison Centre Notification via the Portal, the Unique Formulation Identifier theoretically requires an EU VAT number to be used, although there is an option to use a different number for non-VAT registered businesses. There has been a lot of publicity about VAT and Northern Ireland under the WA, and it seems that Brexit means UK-only VAT and EU-only VAT. Whether this would mean that UK companies would use the special number for non-EU-VAT registered businesses, or whether they could continue to use GB VAT numbers is unclear
  • This last point does seem to be correct, we should legally use the REACH registration CLP classifications if they are in our supply chain (it’s good practice anyway)

One of the problems which we have for a “Brexit with a deal” under the Withdrawal Agreement is that all of the guidance which has been issued by the HSE has been biased towards No Deal, because the number of permutations which might occur under a Deal scenario.

This is not the fault of the HSE at all, they have had to do some “worst case” planning, but it means that we are a bit in limbo in the UK chemical industry if there is a Deal.

I am sure that if the Withdrawal Agreement is accepted, the HSE and DEFRA (who manage REACH with the HSE) will publicise what is going to happen in detail, but I’m equally sure that there are so many complexities and situations which can’t be predicted that there will be a lot of unexpected issues which will need to be resolved.

Ironically, a No Deal Brexit would actually give more certainty to the UK chemical industry than a Deal, at least in terms of practical compliance with UK chemical regulations; and also with EU chemical regulations, where we would automatically fall under the rules for non-EU companies.

So if the WA goes through, and is accepted by the EU, and the UK does have Brexit on the 31st January, we are all going to have to be alert for how to comply with CLP (and REACH, Biocides and PIC), in case there are some changes which have not been predicted, just because of the famous “law of unintended consequences” (there’s an interesting video on this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzdeZdg6nxo ).

No Deal scenario

However, it is still possible that the WA may not be accepted by the EU, or that something else (such as the Northern Ireland problem) may force a No Deal Brexit, and this might be on the 31st of January 2020, or on a date afterwards.

In this situation, the UK would immediately be out of the EU, with no access to EU institutions, and instead chemical regulations would all be UK-based. This would mean that all of the no-deal guidance would come into effect on Brexit Day, as we have listed in a previous email:

The HSE have a series of useful links on their website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/clp-no-deal.htm and https://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/clp.htm and https://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/reach.htm and https://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/brexit-no-deal-guidance.htm .

The Department of International Trade are running a half-day Webinar tomorrow, Wednesday 16th October, which can be viewed live or later on, as long as you book, which you can do here: https://registration.livegroup.co.uk/onlinebrexitbusinessreadinessevent/ (specifically includes a section on chemicals).

From the trade point of view, 11 new ‘how to prepare for Brexit videos’ have been published via Twitter. The topics they cover are:

• the UKCA mark
• authorised representatives and importer labelling
• business legal requirements: cross-border mergers and operating in the UK
• business legal requirements: merger review and anti-competitive activity
• use of personal data
• EORI registration
• transitional simplified procedures registration
• using a customs agent
• exporting
• hauliers
• business travel.
There are some links below. The full list of videos can be found by visiting the @beisgovuk Twitter handle
https://twitter.com/beisgovuk/status/1177100488363274245
https://twitter.com/HMRCgovuk/status/1177115706573434885
https://twitter.com/beisgovuk/status/1177281682623254528
https://twitter.com/HMRCgovuk/status/1177232320350367744
https://twitter.com/beisgovuk/status/1177266586295533569

(You don’t need to be on twitter to get hold of these videos).

The UK government have also published a comprehensive No Deal readiness report at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/no-deal-readiness-report, which may contain extra information to help you navigate through the complexities of the situation.

You may also find our article “A quick CLP and REACH pre-Brexit checklist” helpful.

What is also likely under No Deal is that there will be a lot of unanticipated situations, and many questions to be answered, just as there will be if there is a Deal, although the problems will be different.

Brexit help, regardless of Deal/ No Deal

Whatever happens, companies in the UK are likely to have a period of readjustment to the new situation, and we need to be prepared for this extra workload.

The HSE are intending to upgrade their Helpdesk support for Brexit, and there may even be telephone support available for UK companies, which will be a great help.

Obviously industry bodies such as the Chemical Industries Association, Chemical Business Association etc, and our own Chemical Regulations Self Help Group will being working hard to help members adapt; and also downstream user trade organisations will no doubt be involved.

I will also do my best to keep you as up to date as possible.

One thing which is certain is that there will be a lot of rumours going around during this pre-Brexit period, as we have had in other pre-Brexit periods, and it’s going to be important to:

  • be prepared in case we do end up with No Deal
  • not get stressed by conflicting information
  • and wait and see what actually happens.

GHS Classification Courses from TT Environmental Ltd

18th December 2019

Like this article? You’ll love our free guide to CLP  (and you’ll also get our articles delivered direct to your inbox every week!)