Interview: “We are concerned at the UK’s approach to FTA negotiations with the EU”
Are there any repercussions for the BCF’s membership in CEPE?
David Park: We are pleased to say that BCF will remain a member of CEPE post-Brexit. There will clearly be common issues and topics that will affect our members on a Europe-wide basis where we would like to be able to contribute to the debate, and likewise CEPE will surely find it useful to be able to continue to engage closely with us. Moreover, by pooling resources and expertise we can continue to maximise the coating industry’s voice across Europe.
Public Affairs Manager, BCF
The BCF has done a survey among its members. How prepared do UK companies feel for Brexit?
Park: We carried out a survey of members in October 2019 year when the threat of a no-deal Brexit seemed a very real and imminent possibility, so the survey focussed very heavily on that no-deal scenario. While a no-deal outcome seems to have lessened a little, it has not yet gone away and so most of the responses we received will still be relevant. At that time, 90% of our members had prepared for a no-deal scenario and over 75% said they were confident they had measures in place to deal with new customs procedures in the event of a no-deal.
Clearly, we hope that a Free Trade Agreement can be reached between the EU and UK which would minimise disruption for our members. However, there are lots of announcements and public statements being made by both sides at the moment which make it difficult to plan ahead with certainty. For instance, the UK Government has only recently started to be clearer about how businesses will need to expect some ‘friction’ with customs checks and probably delays at borders, and associated changes to VAT payment. We are still waiting, however, to hear what a post-Brexit REACH regime might look like.
So, while most of our members are quite rightly taking precautionary measures and doing their best to plan appropriately, it is difficult for firm strategies to be decided upon. We need to see certainty as soon as possible so that businesses can put solid plans into operation.
What do you think is important regarding chemical legislation in the UK going forward?
Park: We want to see high standards maintained, that much is certain. Industry has made huge strides forwards in recent years in terms of safety, sustainability and environmental protection and we do not want to go backwards on those points. However, we also want to ensure that future legislation provides this without massively increasing costs and bureaucracy for members.
At the moment we are concerned at the UK’s approach to FTA negotiations with the EU. The UK Government has signalled that it does not want to commit to regulatory alignment with the EU post-Brexit and this may mean the creation of a separate UK REACH regime. In its current proposed form this would require all substances in the EU REACH database being re-registered in a UK REACH database. This would lead to exactly the sort of bureaucratic duplication and cost we want to avoid – a recent BCF member survey found 90% of coatings manufacturers express their fear of having a duplicate set of chemical regulations through a UK REACH.
We need government to understand the complexity of the integrated chemicals supply chain and come up with an appropriate free trade deal to prevent – or at least minimise – substantially added costs or disruption to our members.
Interview by Vanessa Bauersachs