US trade deal would be chemicals safety ‘disaster’ says MP

Belinda Liversedge
20 Apr 2017
Photograph iStock / tunart

The snap election set for June 8 may have brought more uncertainty. Nevertheless, if a UK-US trade deal is later struck taking us out of REACH, it would surely be a “health and safety disaster", a Labour MP has warned.

Writing for the Guardian, Geraint Davies said: “If we leave the EU we step out of the protective umbrella of REACH, the EU directive that requires companies to prove their chemicals are safe to human health and the environment before they can be sold.

“The process works on the “precautionary principle” central to EU regulation: companies have to prove their products are safe. That basic approach simply isn’t recognised in the US.”

He said it would be a ‘disaster’ if we adopt a UK-US trade deal without REACH because of the ‘toothless tiger’ of US equivalent rules. The US Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA) allows asbestos to be sold in the US. It also allows chemicals to be sold which have been outlawed by the EU, he said.

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is thought to be one of the most difficult aspects of environmental regulation to preserve in UK law once the country leaves the EU because it relies on the collaboration of experts in each of the EU member states to run it.

An inquiry into REACH’s future after Brexit is underway in Parliament with the Environmental Audit Committee. Davies, who is a member of the committee, told a hearing on 7 March: “To provide business certainty, wouldn’t it be sensible simply to say, “We will adopt REACH”? It is all very well saying we might have a difference of opinion on ethanol in alcohol or with Poland or whatever, but what we are talking about here are thousands and thousands of jobs and billions and billions of pounds of industry.”