BLOG: The Sound of Silence | Breast Cancer UK

BLOG: The Sound of Silence

Published 3 Oct 2017

In less than 18 months the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union and its chemicals regulation regime.

I last blogged about Brexit and how it might impact on the regulation of chemicals linked to breast cancer back in January 2017. I thought that by now we’d have a clearer idea of the UK Government’s plans for chemicals regulation – I was wrong.

In April the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) [1] published its report ‘Future of Chemicals Regulation after the EU Referendum’ [2]. Last week, the Government published its response.

People talking without speaking

In its response the Government is sticking to its policy of giving nothing away. I’m not an international trade negotiator – they may have good reasons for being tight lipped. However, our chemicals regulations currently come from the EU, and the UK doesn’t have the institutions and systems in place to run and enforce its own chemicals regulation regime.

  • Will the Government go like the clappers to set up a UK-only chemicals regulation system? Perhaps they will they negotiate a transition period that will give them enough time?
  • Will the Government have a new UK system in name, but just copy and paste EU chemicals regulations?
  • Will the UK decide to stay in REACH [3] and other key EU chemicals regulations?

Breast Cancer UK believe that staying within REACH may be the best way of making more progress to reduce our exposure to chemicals linked to breast cancer. This outcome is compatible with the UK leaving the EU.

Of course, chemicals regulation is just one part of a huge set of ongoing negotiations. Nonetheless, they are a rather important part – for both industry, and the protection of human health and the environment. We need a strong regulatory system to make sure that chemicals linked to breast cancer are restricted or banned before decades of damage is done.

We will continue to push for greater transparency from the Government on their plans for chemicals regulation. In the meantime, all we have is the sound of silence.

What can you do?

You can read more in our briefing: ‘Brexit: will there be implications for breast cancer prevention?’

You can write to your MP and ask what they will do to ensure that public health is protected and chemicals regulations are not weakened, once the UK leaves the EU.


[1] A House of Commons Select Committee that scrutinises the UK Government's performance on environmental protection and sustainable development.

[2] The report is a result of its inquiry into chemicals regulation, to which Breast Cancer UK submitted written evidence.

[3] Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is the EU’s main chemicals regulation

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