Press Release

The UK’s number one manufacturing exporter, the chemical industry, has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that the UK is seeking Associate Membership of the European Chemicals Agency as part of a post-Brexit future.

Steve Elliott, Chief Executive of the Chemical Industries Association said “Today’s statement by the Prime Minister is an encouraging step forward which acknowledges our industry’s long-standing call for regulatory consistency in leaving the European Union. 

Although  the proposal for the UK to hold “associate membership” of the EU Chemicals Agency needs further definition, we would urge the UK and EU negotiating partners and all of the European chemical industry to respond positively to this initiative, keeping in mind the desired aim of minimal disruption to EU chemicals trade and investment as an outcome from Brexit. More specifically, Theresa May’s commitment to enabling the continued involvement of UK officials and their related technical expertise in the workings of REACH is something that I believe would be welcomed by our European partners.   Her aim of avoiding duplicate testing and related costs under REACH would also help protect a decade’s worth of investment in REACH by chemical businesses in the UK.

Elliott concluded “In the UK I would like all sectors, trade unions, NGO’s and political parties to work with Government to see if we can make this proposal work. Brexit will present future opportunities around the world but I have long believed it is in this Country’s interest to remain as close as possible to the market that matters the most. That is certainly the case for the sector I represent”.  



The chemical and pharmaceutical industry adds £18 billion of value to the UK economy every year from total annual turnover of £50 billion. This represents around 11% of the value added by the whole of UK manufacturing.

In addition to gross value added, the sector also contributes to the UK economy in its position at the head of many supply chains within manufacturing and its employment of a well remunerated, high-skilled workforce. Chemical manufacturing adds £9 billion in gross value added annually and pharmaceutical manufacturing £9 billion.

The wider chemical and pharmaceutical sector (manufacturing plus distribution) is the largest exporter of manufactured goods with annual exports of close to £50 billion. The export of motor vehicle, trailers and semi-trailers is the sector with next highest exports of £35 billion. 

63% of companies in the sector export what they make to the world, the highest proportion of any goods manufacturing sector in the UK economy. 60% of our exports go to the European Union and 75% of our imports and raw materials come from the European Union.

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