Companies legal obligations on chemicals and biocides will change as a result of Brexit

Companies' legal obligations on chemicals and biocides will change as a result of Brexit

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has warned of the major impact on British and European Union (EU) textile and clothing companies, especially those with integrated upstream fabric and finishing units, should the UK push ahead with quitting the European Union (EU) as planned in 2019.

It has released a database to advise chemical producers and users of how their legal obligations will change as a result.

ECHA warns British companies: "If your business is in any way part of a supply chain that links you to businesses located within the 27 EU member states remaining after the UK's withdrawal, you will face some fundamental changes."

Importantly, UK clothing and textile finishers and finishing chemical manufacturers currently have an obligation by May 2018 to register chemicals under EU's REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals)  chemical control system that are made or imported in annual quantities of between one and 100 tonnes.

And yet, on 29 March 2019 – when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU – those registrations will become null and void.

As well as being a waste of time for finishers, after a Brexit, firms based in the EU (or the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) buying textile finishing chemicals from Britain, may have to re-register such chemicals themselves, if they want to continue buying them from the British supplier that registered them in the first place.

There are two other options, according to the ECHA guidance. The British chemical manufacturer will have to relocate to the remaining EU or EEA or appoint an 'Only Representative' within the remaining EU/EEA authorised to make the relevant filing under REACH and be legally responsible for ensuring a British exporter complies with EU rules.

Another potential risk for UK companies is over biocides, which can be incorporated into clothes as insecticides.

The EU is undertaking a review of all biocidal chemicals used in Europe, to check their safety, under the EU's biocidal products regulation (BPR). Ultimately, biocidal chemicals sold in the EU need to be formally authorised under the system, with authorisation holders having to be established within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

So UK companies with an authorisation to sell biocidal chemicals into these EU and associated countries will have to seek an authorisation to do so from a company based in these export markets.