It has been a couple of months now since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU), and whilst the government has yet to invoke Article 50, there are still some uncertainties when it comes to how leaving the EU will impact the plastics industry.
If we assume that Article 50 is to be evoked by the end of the year, the government will have two years to renegotiate its relationship with the EU. In that time, any existing EU legislation will remain in force.
For the plastics industry, this includes the following just to name a few:
- The EU chemical control system REACH
- Excise duty controls
- Food health claims
- Plastic packaging content rules
- Packaging and packaging waste legislation
- Controls on nano-materials
- Plastic bag usage rules
- Water pollution legislation
With the UK leaving the EU, there is still some doubt if the UK will implement EU plastics-related legislation that have been approved by EU institutions but not yet passed as Law, such as the tightened limits set for bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic food contact materials or the law limiting the use of thin plastic bags in the EU. There is also the matter of whether or not current EU legislations on the plastics industry will remain in force; this is now up to the UK government to decide.
How will the UK operate outside the EU?
If we were to join the European Economic (EEA), with the likes of Norway and Iceland, the UK would still have to abide by EU laws. We would still have to pay into the EU budget to get access to non-food elements in the EU single market, including plastics and plastic goods. It is pretty much the same as being part of the EU, but the UK would have no vote on the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament, and would have to accept any new laws that come into effect. For this to happen, other EEA countries would have to accept the UK as a member and this may be refused.
Another option is the UK becoming similar to Switzerland and negotiating bilateral trade deals with the EU. Normally the Swiss have to implement EU rules to make these deals and be granted market access. This means that if the UK were the same, duties of UK plastics and plastic products to the EU could be increased.
At the time of writing, there is still uncertainty about how the UK will survive outside the EU, but there are both positive and negatives to whatever outcome is decided. In the end, it is now up to the UK government to negotiate the best deals for us.