The EU and Product Stewardship Five Years from Now

Earlier this year, Britain began the process of withdrawing from the European Union, a move that raises important questions for companies that do business with both markets. The main concern for product stewards is whether Brexit will affect chemical registrations with ECHA, the EU agency that implements REACH legislation.

There are at least two scenarios that companies need to consider, says Francis Trudeau, senior product manager at Sphera. First is the worst-case scenario, a “hard-Brexit” in which the UK becomes completely independent from the EU. “It’s absolutely likely under a hard-Brexit scenario that Britain would convert current EU laws, like CLP and REACH, into their own laws,” says Trudeau. “Think about it as a photocopy at the time where Britain leaves.” From then on, the UK’s laws might cease to evolve in conjunction with ECHA implementation. “After a few years, you can expect the laws will diverge, and then Britain is really going to have a distinct and unique set of legislation,” says Trudeau. More concerning is the possibility that registrations made by UK-based registrants would become invalid.

Another scenario is the ‘soft-Brexit.’ Trudeau says companies such as Norway and Lichtenstein aren’t part of the EU, but they share the same legislation for hazard communication and chemical control. In this scenario, the UK would remain part of the EEA, and product stewards would feel less impact from Britain’s withdraw from the UK.

“How the story unfolds, it’s very hard to tell. But one thing is for sure,” says Trudeau. “It’s going to be very difficult negotiations, and already it is clear that the EU commission wants to make it as difficult as possible for the UK, making them an example not to follow for the other EU member states. So the hard Brexit is a very likely scenario even though for the chemical industry a soft Brexit would be preferred.”

Trudeau and colleague Kimberly Bull, regulatory analyst at Sphera explored questions and concerns around doing business in the EU during “Doing Business in the EU in the Next 5 Years,” a free webinar hosted by the Product Stewardship Society.


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