‘No surprise’: UK REACH submission deadlines set to be extended by three years

The current deadlines for submitting data about certain chemicals in the UK post-Brexit are to be extended by three years each, a recent consultation by DEFRA has concluded.

Spraying disinfection on surface

After leaving the EU, all substances manufactured in or imported to England, Scotland and Wales have to be registered with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is the agency for UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

Applications registered whilst the UK was still in the EU transferred automatically under transitional provisions, however the first deadline for full registration data to be submitted to HSE is coming up in October next year.

Due to the high costs for businesses to get the data needed to make a registration under UK REACH, a consultation was launched with stakeholders to determine whether the deadlines should be extended. The proposal is for an alternative transitional registration (ATR) model which would reduce costs to businesses of transitioning from EU REACH to UK REACH.

The consultation closed in September this year.

The current deadlines are: 

  • October 2023 for substances included on the EU REACH candidate list before UK REACH came into effect; substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction and manufactured or imported in quantities of one tonne a year or more; substances that are very toxic to aquatic life and manufactured or imported in quantities of 100 tonnes or more a year; and all substances manufactured or imported in quantities of 1,000 tonnes or more a year.

  • October 2025 for substances added to the UK REACH candidate list before the above submission deadline; and all substances manufactured or imported in quantities of 100 tonnes or more a year.

  • October 2027 for all substances manufactured or imported in quantities of 1 tonne or more a year.

According to DEFRA, 82% of the respondents – which mainly consisted of businesses and industry members – voted for the largest extension the agency posed, which is an extension of three years on the current deadlines.  This would mean that all the transitional registration data is not set to be received until 2030.

The majority of respondents who made this choice, according to DEFRA, cited that the longer timeframe would reduce burdens and maximise the opportunity for businesses to submit high quality dossiers. The voters varied from small/medium enterprises to large businesses, and consisted only of industry figures. Of the five NGOs involved in the survey, none of them voted for this option.

The second option given by the agency was to extend the deadlines but decrease this incrementally, meaning that the first submission deadline would be extended by three years, the second by two years and the third by one year to October 2028. 13% of the respondents voted for this option, most citing that this would provide a balance as it was felt this was a reasonable period to comply with the submission deadlines whilst ensuring transitional registration data would still be received as early as possible.

The other two options given by the agency were for them to do nothing / not to change the deadlines (3%), or for no preferred option (2%). The majority of the voters for the “do nothing option” were NGOs.

The consultation also sought views on the government’s proposal to extend the timelines for compliance checks under Article 41(5) of the UK REACH Regulation, so as to align with the data submission deadlines. The results showed 90% of the respondents supported the government’s proposal, saying it was logical that the data submission deadlines preceded the compliance checks.

Despite the government’s original preference being for option two, after taking into account the results of the consultation, it will be legislating to extend the current deadlines by three years for each tonnage band. This decision will be subject to the consent of the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Speaking at an Environmental Audit Committee meeting on Wednesday, DEFRA minister Rebecca Pow said that the extension “will give more time for business and industry to register and it will then enable us to work on an alternative transitional model which we’re in discussions already with industry about.

“We will consult on a fully formed policy on that in 2023, with a view to legislating in 2024,” she said.

This is now the second time the submissions deadline will have been extended by legislation, and the fourth time the proposed extension has been pushed back

Neil Hollis, UK regulatory affairs manager of one of the world’s biggest chemicals producers, BASF, said they welcomed the decision.

“This provides the timeframe for the UK government to work with stakeholders to enact a pragmatic and proportionate UK REACH policy," he said. 

However, Zoe Avison, policy analyst at Green Alliance Zoe Avison warned that "Pushing back deadlines as far as 2030 means HSE will be operating without data on some substances for an entire decade. What happened to 'no data, no market'?”

“DEFRA has confirmed that turkeys don't vote for Christmas - 90% of consultation responses came from businesses or industry bodies so it's no surprise that most voted for the longest possible extension to registration deadlines," she added. 

Chloe Alexander, UK campaigner at CHEM Trust echoed these concerns and said: “We are very disappointed to see that the deadlines keep getting pushed back. It’s also depressing that the extension is to allow time to develop a data registration model that not only provides less protection than improvements that are in the pipeline at EU level, but less protection than the existing model.

“The government implicitly acknowledged this when it said the system ‘will still be able to ensure a high level of protection for human health and the environment’.

“The way the model is currently constructed, which insists on a fully standalone system, makes it extremely difficult to minimise costs and burdens on industry. Instead, the opportunity should be taken to explore a pragmatic, stable alignment-based option which would both minimise the costs and burdens on industry and the taxpayer, and maintain high public health and environmental protections.”