U.K. Chemical Industry Pleads for EU Trading Rules Post-Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s $54 billion chemical and pharmaceutical industry pushed the government to keep the European Union regulatory framework for the sector, joining other lobby groups heaping pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to avoid rupturing ties with the nation’s leading export market.

“Ensuring that cars continue to run, planes continue to fly and medicines continue to work” means upholding the EU’s rules on selling hazardous substances, called REACH, and being part of the European Chemicals Agency, according to a letter sent to Environment Secretary Michael Gove from Chemical Industries Association Chief Executive Steve Elliott.

Elliott said that although the introduction of REACH 10 years ago initially caused consternation to the U.K.’s chemical industry amid fears of extra costs and bureaucracy, being outside the system now would be harmful. Having a U.K.-specific regulatory framework could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds in costs being duplicated as companies seek to comply with a new set of rules.

“REACH is far from perfect but it is our belief that the best way of minimizing any disruption to supply chains” is maintaining the status quo, Elliott said in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Bloomberg.

The chemical industry’s concerns mirror those of the aerospace industry, which called for continued membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency.

With the clock ticking down to Brexit in March 2019, May is having to tread a fine line to balance the competing demands of industry and so-called hard-Brexit supporters in her cabinet, such as Gove, who want few compromises in any deal. Other players she’s contending with include her divided backbenchers, the EU, bloc member Ireland and the Northern Irish party that props up her government.

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