Last week Westminster Energy Forum organised an insightful webinar focussing on an unavoidable topic for many of us – UK REACH. An array of excellent speakers from industry, trade associations and the government joined the discussion – here’s our take-home points.
Although the EU trade deal was welcomed by industry, the eleventh-hour timing was unhelpful, with the government giving greater emphasis to fisheries than key manufacturing industries.
Industry faces decades of duplicated work
Access to Data is conspicuous by its absence from the new arrangements, meaning industry faces decades of duplicated work to create duplicate registrations. These include potential repeats of animal testing which – in addition to the obvious ethical concerns – are a major setback in our shift to risk-based approaches and will be a huge distraction from the many environmental and climate concerns that the chemical industry needs to focus on at this critical time. DEFRA shared that there can be no expectation of change with regards to “no data sharing” in the context of the single market, with the EU remaining firm on this decision – therefore an alternative solution needs to be found.
The chemical industry expressed concerns that UK companies collectively face costs of £1 billion to reinvent the wheel, and that some chemicals will disappear from the UK market altogether – there simply wouldn’t be sufficient incentive for companies to register them here. In particular this could have an impact on the availability of niche chemicals for innovative applications. In addition, a disproportionately high level of red tape has caused a disincentive to invest, with far-reaching implications for our chemical manufacturing industry and the associated job market. Companies including BASF have reacted by lobbying for a re-think, to allow use of EU-registered data and avoid repeat studies, including animal testing.
“A significant setback both ethically and scientifically”
It was discussed that, on a global scale, animal testing is on the retreat for chemical safety assessment, with many more bans coming in around the world. This shines a light on the sad irony of the UK – a nation of animal lovers heavily involved in developing animal replacement technologies – now potentially requiring a large number of duplicate tests, representing a significant setback both ethically and scientifically.
The uncertainty of repeat testing is a big risk from industry’s perspective, posing a major barrier to investment into the UK. A lack of resources threatens effective enforcement and if UK REACH is seen as a “softer version” of its EU counterpart, it will have diminished value and be a wasted investment for companies. Consistency is key so that industry can plan, rather than changing the goal posts as we go along.
Innovation and smart-thinking vital to staying in the game
This raises the question of why an EU company would choose to buy from a UK chemical company at all. As the EU remains our largest export market, British companies need to both have innovative USPs to stay competitive and be smart when choosing target sectors.
Click here to view a full list of XCellR8’s REACH compliant, 100% animal-free assays for endpoints including skin sensitisation, skin corrosion and skin and eye irritation.