Expect chemical supplies in Britain to 'disappear' after Brexit, warns industry expert

Chemicals expert Neil Hollis giving evidence to a Commons committee on the impacts of Brexit on UK industry

Chemical regulatory affairs specialist Neil Hollis warned Britain could lose access to vital chemical supplies after Brexit - Credit: parliamentlive.tv

A chemical expert from one of the major manufacturers has said chemicals readily available in the UK will "disappear" after Brexit.

Neil Hollis, of the chemical giant BASF, told a Commons committee on the impact of Brexit upon UK industry that government plans to pull out of the EU chemical database, known as REACH, and create its own would cost businesses £1 billion in fees.

Responding to what the changes meant for his industry, Hollis replied: "This is something BASF and the whole industry are extremely concerned about.

"Firstly, the additional registration costs that a UK REACH will bring is estimated to be £1 billion across the industry and will bring no tangible value to enhancing safety from chemicals and it will disadvantage UK industry with respect to global supply chain competitiveness."

Hollis warned the cost of registering chemical volumes onto the new database would mean fewer companies would do so and warned of dire consequences.

"To put it bluntly, the chemicals that are available across the UK and EU will remain on the EU market but will disappear from the UK market."

The regulatory affairs specialist said that could lead to less investment in UK companies and stymy innovation.

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"That's a pretty grim assessment," said Hilary Benn, who was chairing the committee.

Hollis replied: "I'm afraid there's no positive spin on this one."

MPs were also told that trade would become a "day-to-day struggle" after Brexit.

And Paul Everitt, chief executive of the ADS Group, the aerospace trade organisation, said: “Whatever happens now, we will be involved in a day-to-day struggle to ensure the goods that we need to see flowing across our borders.”

He said: “It will happen at whatever cost it has to bear – but that obviously shapes and impacts on people’s future investment plans. It’s not a happy place for us to be.”

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, added to concerns when he said some medicines may not reach Northern Ireland after Brexit and that the region did not have the testing facilities needed to examine new drugs.

He said pharmaceutical companies were doing "whatever possible" to ensure medicines made their way to the region and urged patients not to panic.

None of the experts stated a reason to welcome the end of the transition period, on December 31, when asked to by Benn.

This comes as news emerges of UK car manufacturers being hit hard with tariffs whether or not the a Brexit deal is done in time.

The EU has rejected proposals by the UK to classify components made in Turkey and Japan as British after Brexit.

In a letter sent to the UK's chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, seen by the BBC, the EU said it had "made clear" that it would not agree to third-country cumulation in any circumstances.

A report has pointed out that every month 45 million packs of medicines cross the Channel and 37 million are imported from the EU to the UK.

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