Brexit and its implications for the chemicals trade

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 (UK)*** left the European Union (EU) with effect from 31 January 2020.

Under the withdrawal agreement, a transitional phase was in force until the end of 2020. During that period the chemicals trade between the United Kingdom*** and the EU/EEA was able to continue under the same conditions as before.

Scope of the UK REACH Regulations

Since January 2021, the UK REACH Regulations have been in force in the United Kingdom, i.e. in England, Wales and Scotland. The UK REACH Regulations has taken on board the basic principles of the EU REACH Regulations, such as “No Data – No Market” and the appointment of Only Representatives.

The UK agency responsible for implementing the UK REACH Regulations is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

As soon as your EU/EEA-based company

  • exports substances, mixtures or articles to Great Britain**
  • imports substances, preparations or articles from Great Britain**,

you need to ensure that you meet the relevant requirements both under EU REACH Regulations and under UK REACH Regulations.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the EU REACH Regulations continue to be applicable, as detailed in the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. If a company is based in Northern Ireland, you can continue your chemicals trade with that company in the same way as you did before Brexit, and the only requirements you need to meet are those under EU REACH Regulations.

Exporting substances to Great Britain**

As a company based in the EU/EEA* selling substances to Great Britain (England, Wales or Scotland), you become an exporter from the EU and your trading partner in Great Britain** accordingly an importer within the scope of the UK REACH Regulations. To stay in the British market, you need to:

  1. either ensure that your British trading partner gets your substances registered under UK REACH as an importer,
  2. or appoint an Only Representative based in Great Britain** who will handle registration under UK REACH for you.

This applies to all substances exported to Great Britain** in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year.

Any substances that you wish to export to Great Britain** for the first time on or after 1 January 2021 in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year are subject to an immediate registration obligation under UK REACH.

If they are substances which you were already selling to Great Britain** prior to 1 January 2021 and wish to continue, you can make use of the following transitional arrangement:

Transitional arrangement: Downstream User Import Notification (DUIN)

If your British customer was already your downstream user or distributor BEFORE 1 January 2021, then UK REACH allows for the option of deferring your registration obligation. To do so, you need to have submitted a Downstream User Import Notification (DUIN) to HSE no later than 27 October 2021.

The UK government has announced an extension of the DUIN submission deadline (currently an indefinite extension) on the HSE website.

''If you did not notify HSE [by 27 October 2021] and wish to continue to import EU REACH registered substances into Great Britain at or above one tonne per year, you can still submit a [DUIN] notification, if eligible to do so. You should do this as soon as possible...''

DUIN will then notify HSE about your intention to continue your chemicals trade. HSE provides a spreadsheet in which you must list all the substances for which you wish to obtain a deferral of your registration obligation. Once you have completed the spreadsheet, append it to an email and send the email to HSE.

For DUIN-listed substances, you can defer your UK REACH registration obligation for up to 6 years plus 300 days. The length of the deferral that is granted to you depends on the annual import volume and/or the hazard potential of a substance. A listing of the applicable deferral periods can be found on the HSE website.

Please note that only substances can be registered via a DUIN. If you export a mixture to Great Britain**, you need to list each ingredient of the mixture separately in the DUIN if its volume amounts to 1 tonne or more per year.

From 28 October 2021 onwards, you can rely on the continuation of unrestricted trade in chemicals with your British customer under the following conditions:

  1. if your British customer has notified the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a DUIN, or if they do so as quickly as possible under the deadline extension (see above), or
  2. if you yourself, as a manufacturer, formulator or article producer based in the EU/EEA*, have appointed an Only Representative based in Great Britain** to send notification (DUIN) by 27 October 2021 or to do so on behalf of your British trade partner as soon as possible under the deadline extension.

Importing substances from Great Britain**

As from 1 January 2021, if you are a downstream user based in the EU/EEA* or Northern Ireland who purchases substances of 1 tonne or more from Great Britain**, you are an importer within the scope of the EU REACH Regulations.

From 1 January 2021, all registrations made by manufacturers, importers or Only Representatives based in Great Britain** as (lead) registrants by 31 December 2020 will cease to be valid in the EU/EEA* and Northern Ireland.

If Brexit changes your status from downstream user to importer within the scope of the EU REACH Regulations, you may now only continue to use the imported substances if your British supplier has transferred registration either to an Only Representative based in the EU/EEA* or to a company based in the EU/EEA* BEFORE 1 January 2021.

If no registration transfer has taken place, you are now not allowed to use this substance on the EU market

  • until you have successfully registered the substance as an importer with ECHA
  • or until your UK trading partner has registered this substance under EU REACH through an EU-based Only Representative.

You must therefore check your supply chain and make sure you are still allowed to re-use substances in the EU/EEA* that you source from a company based in Great Britain**.

To help you, ECHA has published a list (XLS, 69 KB) of all substances registered by UK companies only.

Authorisations of British companies

Authorisations granted to companies in Great Britain** before the end of the transition period will cease to be valid in the EU/EEA* on 1 January 2021. As a downstream user, you can no longer rely on this authorisation unless the UK manufacturer, formulator or Only Representative has transferred the authorisation to an Only Representative based in the EU/EEA* BEFORE 1 January 2021.

If this is not the case, you, as a downstream user, must now

  • either become an authorisation holder yourself and apply to ECHA for your use of the substance (in which case you must suspend use of the substance until you have received authorisation),
  • or find an alternative supplier based in the EU/EEA* with valid authorisation for your use.

Notes on terminology

* EU/EEA: Member States of the European Union and the European Economic Area Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway)

** Great Britain = England, Wales and Scotland

*** United Kingdom (UK) = England, Wales, Scotland + Northern Ireland

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