Following the UK’s departure from the European Union on 31st January 2020, both sides are now engaged in the future-relationship negotiations during the transition period. A priority in these negotiations is the conclusion of a trade agreement that will be the core of the future economic relationship.

In 2018 bilateral EU27 – UK chemicals trade amounted to about €46 billion. With the UK chemical industry representing 6% of total EU28 sales and UK exports to the EU27 representing about 60% of UK sales in 2018, both sides are important markets to each other with highly integrated supply chains in the chemical sector and downstream.

Thus, the preferred option of the European chemical industry is a strong future partnership comprising a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. While noting the challenges ahead, including the timing of the negotiations, this agreement should secure, at the minimum, frictionless trade and placing on the market of chemicals while ensuring the highest degree of regulatory cooperation between the UK and the EU27.

One of the key issues for our industry is regulatory cooperation. The chemical industry seeks an agreement that recognises the economic and environmental logic of remaining closely connected with regard to the REACH regulation, addressing the safe use of chemicals and their placement on the market. The UK and EU’s negotiating approaches indicate that the two parties intend to form separate legal orders. The EU mandate suggests for a framework for voluntary regulatory cooperation in areas of Union interest, including exchange of information and sharing of best practice. Similarly, the UK mandate more specifically calls for cooperation on chemicals to be included in an annex to the future free trade agreement. To ensure high levels of protection for the environment, human and animal health and to support UK and EU businesses to meet the separate regulatory requirements of the two markets, the UK proposes to agree on data and information sharing mechanisms, in line with the relevant provisions set out in UK and EU regulation and existing third-country mechanisms. In addition, a commitment to develop a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation further, similar to those that the European Chemicals Agency has agreed with Australia and Canada, is suggested.


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