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9. Jun 2021 | Legislation

An overview of UK REACH

Vivien Gutknecht and Dr Alexander Weißenberg, UMCO

Due to Brexit, the United Kingdom has established it's own chemicals legislation, namely UK REACH.

UK REACH is a copy of EU REACH and most of the legal regulations are identical.
Image source: Feydzhet Shabanov - stock.adobe.com

The United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2021, albeit not entirely. The UK is composed of England, Scotland and Wales (or Great Britain, GB), plus Northern Ireland (NI). Special regulations have been agreed for Northern Ireland (the NI Protocol). For example, EU customs and chemicals law continues to apply in NI. Furthermore, the negotiations on the free-trade agreement were successfully concluded in late December 2020 and it has been provisionally approved.

Despite the free-trade agreement, one of the biggest changes is the UK’s own chemicals legislation, namely UK REACH. This is a copy of EU REACH, and most of the legal regulations are identical. Amendments and non-completed procedures (e.g. authorisations) will not be automatically transferred to UK REACH from 1 January 2021.

The responsible UK authority is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Under UK REACH, all chemicals traded in GB from one tonne per year must be registered, unless they are exempt. There are several registration options:

GB-based companies can use the grandfathering process to have their former EU REACH registrations recognised under UK REACH. They have 120 days to do this and only need to provide some initial data at first. Any transferred EU registrations are unaffected by this.

GB-based companies that were previously downstream users can submit a Downstream User Import Notification (DUIN) to protect their supply chain. They have 300 days to do this, and so become importers. They only need to submit initial data at first.

Once GB-based companies have completed their notification, full technical dossiers must be submitted within 300 days plus two to six years of the UK’s withdrawal. The HSE does not levy any registration fees for grandfathering registrations. DUINs are treated as new registrations and incur full fees if the process is completed.

Companies based outside of GB (manufacturers/formulators/article producers) may appoint a GB-based Only Representative (OR). The OR may submit a DUIN on behalf of downstream users for substances that were already imported and registered under EU REACH before 1 January 2021. All other substances must be registered immediately – no transitional provisions apply and appropriate fees have to be paid.

What is “Comply with UK REACH”?

The UK REACH-IT system is called “Comply with UK REACH” and went online on 1 January 2021. To sign into the service, both a “Government Gateway” account and a “Defra” account for GB-based companies need to be created. ORs resident in GB must first set up a parent account for themselves and then child accounts for the legal entities which they represent. The HSE has published guidance on how to do this.

This service only accepts submissions as i6z dossier files (IUCLID 6 and later versions).

What can “Comply with UK REACH” be used for?

This service can be used for the following activities, and others:

Safety Data Sheets

As regards the classification and labelling (C&L) of substances/products, the EU CLP regulation is reflected in a GB CLP regulation. Therefore, from 1 January 2021, the GB-based importer must be stated on the safety data sheet. In addition, it is possible to state the non-GB-based manufacturer/formulator as well, provided that this does not create confusion. It should be noted that the UK government has not granted any transition periods for this regulation.

Notifications to Poisons Information Centres

The United Kingdom, under UK REACH, operates a no-fee, voluntary type of product notification (poison centre notification, PCN) for hazardous mixtures. The information required under GB CLP can be submitted to The Birmingham Unit of the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) via a safety data sheet.

Northern Ireland Protocol

For the duration of the Northern Ireland Protocol, NI will remain part of the EU regulatory system for chemicals to ensure frictionless movement of goods within the island of Ireland whilst remaining within the UK customs territory. Northern Ireland companies will retain their current EU REACH status and obligations.

One thing to note is the notification system known as Northern Ireland notifications (NIP-NOTS). This applies only to GB-based importers or downstream users of Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods (QNIGs). The UK authorities have published detailed ‘QNIG’ guidance on this. Further information on the information to be submitted and on NIP-NOTS in general can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/yeunz5l5.

Where can I find what?

The legislative texts concerning UK REACH, GB CLP, etc. are not yet available in revised form. These will presumably be made available on the HSE website and/or the UK legislation database. Currently, only the Amendment Regulation of EU REACH and the Amendment Regulation of the CLP are available.

Recommended action

UK REACH came into effect in the UK on 1 January 2021. We recommend that you review your role and take the necessary steps to secure your supply chain. Clarify which options are available to you for registration or notification of your substances/products and keep an eye on existing deadlines.

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