REACH and Brexit

A European and a British flag with a deep crack between them.

The United Kingdom left the European Union (EU) with effect from 31 January 2020.
Source: psdesign1 – Fotolia

The United Kingdom left the European Union (EU) with effect from 31 January 2020. A transitional period applies until the end of 2020. During the transitional period, trade between the UK and the EU27/EEA* will be possible on the same terms as before.

A detailed agreement on future trade relations between the EU and the United Kingdom is to be negotiated during the transitional period.

Should however an agreement on future trade relations between the EU and the United Kingdom not be reached by the end of the transitional period, the result will be a hard Brexit.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) therefore advises that preparations be made for a scenario in which no agreement is reached.

REACH and the transitional period

During the transitional period the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the EU, but the EU REACH Regulation continues to apply in the United Kingdom. During this period, all registrations and authorisations granted under the EU REACH Regulation continue to be recognised in both the UK and the EU27/EEA. Relevant trade between the UK and the EU27/EEA can therefore continue under the same conditions as before up until the end of the transitional period.

Brexit without agreement following the transitional period

Should the transitional period expire without a trade agreement having been reached, the UK REACH Regulation will then come into effect in the UK. The UK REACH Regulation is intended to adopt the basic principles of the EU REACH Regulation, such as "No data, no market" and the appointment of only representatives. If you are a company based in the EU27/EEA that sells substances/articles to the UK, you will become an exporter from the EU and your trading partner in the UK by the same token an importer within the scope of the UK REACH Regulation. To remain active on the UK market, you must ensure that:

  1. either your UK trading partner registers the substances/articles as an importer under the UK REACH Regulation, or
  2. you appoint an only representative based in the UK to conduct registration on your behalf in accordance with the UK REACH Regulation.

Registration of UK manufacturers/importers or only representatives

As of 1 January 2021, registrations in the EU27/EEA granted on or before 31 December 2020 to manufacturers, importers or only representatives based in the UK as the (lead) registrant cease to be valid.

As a downstream user based in the EU27/EEA, you should therefore review your supply chain and ensure that you are permitted to continue to use substances sourced from a UK-based company in the EU27/EEA after 2021 .

ECHA has provided assistance by publishing a list (XLS, 69 KB) of all substances registered only by UK companies.

Should you establish that your company uses a substance in quantities of 1 ton or more per year that has been registered only by a UK registrant, consult the ECHA website to determine what measures you must take before 31 December 2020 to continue using this substance on the EU market beyond the end of the transition period.

Similarly, if you are a manufacturer/producer based in the EU27/EEA, as of 2021 you will no longer be able to rely on a registration that you hold as a co-registrant to a joint submission of which a UK registrant is the lead registrant.

ECHA provides a guidance document describing in what cases and by what procedure a UK registration can be transferred to companies in the EU27/EEA.

Authorisations of UK companies

Authorisations granted to a UK company before the end of the transitional period cease to be valid in the EU27/EEA on 1 January 2021. As a downstream user, you can no longer rely such authorisations and should therefore take appropriate measures before the end of 2020 to ensure that you are permitted to continue to use substances subject to authorisation in the EU27/EEA in 2021. You have the following essential options:

  • Become the holder of the authorisation in your own right
  • UK-based manufacturers and formulators can transfer their authorisation to an only representative established in the EU27/EEA
  • Only representatives based in the UK can transfer their authorisation to an only representative established in the EU27/EEA

Note that importers based in the UK may not transfer their authorisation to an only representative in the EU27/EEA.


Notes on terminology

* EU27/EEA: EU Member States (excluding the United Kingdom) and the remaining European Economic Area countries of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway