The HSE Podcast
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 4 - PPP, BPR and Industry voices

After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 4 - PPP, BPR and Industry voices

January 28, 2021

After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 4 - PPP, BPR and Industry voices

In this instalment, we  invite two industry voices to discuss changes to Biocidal (BPR) and Plant Protection Product (PPP) regulations and explore the actions they have taken to keep their businesses moving following the end of the UK transition period.

It should be noted that the views of any guests on HSE podcasts/recordings do not necessarily reflect those of the HSE or the wider government. Moreover, further website guidance was released in the time following the recording of this podcast. For the most up to date guidance relating to EU Exit, visit www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/chemicals-brexit-guidance.htm or email EU-exitchemicals@hse.gov.uk

 

Podcast Transcript  

Welcome to the HSE podcast with me Mick Ord.  I hope you’re well and looking forward to happy and prosperous year.

In the past few episodes we’ve been hearing from some of HSEs and DEFRA’s own EU regulatory experts about many of the changes that businesses face, now that the UK has left the European Union, and how they should prepare for it, but for this episode and the next one, it’ll be a bit different.  

We’ll be hearing from the businesses themselves about what the past year has been like for them as they try to plan for life outside of the EU.  The views of people whose businesses are being affected on the ground provide much food for thought and I’m confident that some of the things that they’ve observed will be ringing true for many listeners to this podcast.  What they say will also hopefully help to steer you in the right direction as you maybe tackle some of the hurdles that they’ve been negotiating.

In today’s podcast we’ll be hearing from John Mackenzie, the Regulatory Affairs Manager at the long-established chemicals manufacturer Thomas Swan.  They’re a family owned and run business with a UK base in Consett in County Durham, directly employing around 170 people with other bases in the USA and China.  Also joining us is James Clovis, MD of London-based Gemini Agriculture – a company which specialises in the supply of agrochemicals to the UK market.  James founded the company five years ago.

In this episode I’ve been talking to John and James mainly about how they‘ve been preparing for the changes in the regulations pertaining to PPP – Plant Protection Products – and BPR - Biocides Products Regulations.  First of all I asked John what it was like for his company navigating the transition period last year.

John:

In the beginning it was pretty difficult really because there was so little information.  I have to say that one of the immediate impacts of the vote to leave the EU was actually positive for us because the exchange rates changed and we were able to export more because we became more competitive in some markets and so actually it was a help in the beginning but the regulatory burden is going to be massive because of having to deal with two regulatory authorities – ECHA in Europe and HSE in the UK, but navigating it we just had to find whatever information was out there and initially there wasn’t much.

We’ve have kept in close touch with the Chemical Industries Association, the CIA and they’ve been brilliant with keeping us up to date.  We’ve had regular meetings with them and they’ve organised meetings with the Government Departments BEIS, (Government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Defra, HSE and so on, that’s been our main way of navigating it and finding our way through, up until more recently when more information has come out from Government departments.  The impact is mainly going to be dealing with two regulatory authorities like I said.  The regulatory burden is going to be increased in a department where there are only two of us working on regulatory issues.  It’s going to mean quite a lot more work for us and therefore more cost.  

James:

I think John’s nailed it there on the regulatory side.  We’re quite lucky in Gemini because we primarily sell only in the UK.  I think from an import and export point of view that’s where it’s going to impact us the most.  A lot of the technical material comes from India and China which we can’t manufacture within Europe and within the UK and I think it’s going to have a fundamental impact on how we bring products in, you know what processes and what systems we have to work with and also how the parallels go and the extension.  The extension of the active materials for three years is going to be very beneficial in one way.  It kind of gives the UK a bit of longevity in certain products but it’s also going to have a delay because ECHA was dealing with a lot of the Annexe I and Annexe II renewals and I think what’s going to happen now is that we’ll see delays and I think even for generics as well as the multi nationals, we are kind of locked out of those chemicals whether we can access them from a competitive point of view or just from a multinational trying to modify any of their registrations, they’re going to be locked out for an extended period of time.

Mick:

And how can you prepare for something like that?

James:

Well it’s interesting.  I think that from an import/export perspective, I think a lot of people have brought product into the UK whether it’s technical material or finished goods.  I think we’ve seen an increase in product being brought in and stored.  I think we’ve seen an increase in utilisation of certain Toll Manufacturers, there’s an awful lot of those being locked up very early on now.  So I think primarily there’s a lot being brought into the country and is sat in warehouses and I think there are other preparations being made, but it’s trying to be informed as you possibly can and myself and Gemini – we’ve spent a lot of time working with forwarders and the importers trying to make sure that any documentation or approvals that they need, have been submitted well in advance.  

For Northern Ireland we’ve applied for an EORI number extension, the X number I believe it is now and so we are trying to do everything we can but again, we don’t know all the answers yet so it’s trying to prepare as best we can when something pops up, you’ve got to jump on it as quick as you can.

Mick:

John what actions have you taken or at least started to take to ensure your products are biocide compliant?

John:

The main thing we’ve done, well a couple of things really, but one of the big things is that we’ve recently transferred – there’s a thing called the Article 95 list which is a list of active biocides that are allowed to be used in the EU, and so because we are out of the EU now, we had to transfer our registration on that list over onto our representative in the EU.  Now of course being a small company, we had to use a consultant to do that and of course they don’t come cheap, so they are now going to become our representative in the EU working on our behalf and so we are now listed still on the Article 95 list, but with a representative in place rather than have a direct registration ourselves.

The other thing we’ve done though, as a company we’ve decided as a mitigation against the potential border friction that will no doubt occur, we decided that we would apply for a thing called AEO which is Authorised Economic Operator, something which is much more common in Germany and some other European companies but not so common here.  I think the last count I saw was about 700 companies registered in the UK whereas there are about 10,000 or so in Germany.  Anyway, we did that, it was a lot of work but it means that now we are registered on that scheme, that should help with our paperwork, it should reduce cross border friction between UK and EU, but also within the EU itself so it means that the red tape is cut out to a large extent and means we can deal more directly with our customers in the EU.

Mick:

And James what about you on that score – what actions have you started to take? 

James:

What we’ve basically done is, all our registrations are UK Article 34 registrations, we have a couple of parallel imports as well.  So as it stands most of ours will be compliant to the new system and we won’t need to do anything.  

I think REACH is a slightly different kettle of fish and I think moving forward it’s going to take – it depends how you approach it – I think there’s going to be quite a lot of work for certain companies to make sure that all of the intermediates or components are registered in time.  We’ve started working with the supplier of the intermediates and also the Toll Manufacturers as well to make sure everything is REACH compliant when we know exactly what we need to do going forward for that.  

Mick:

We’ll be touching on REACH in the next episode.  James what about PPP compliancy?

James:

As I alluded to earlier, all of our products are already registered with CRD/HSE and we expect that there won’t be much change going forward to the existing registrations.  Going forward for new registrations though, that’s going to be interesting to see if there’s much change at all.  One, to the documentation or requirements but also I think, as I mentioned earlier, to see what happens with the delays on the Annexe I, Annexe II renewals.  From actions there’s not much we can do now, we are basically sat in a holding pattern for certain products waiting for the protection to come down so we can apply for registrations.   There’s not a whole lot on the action side that we need to prepare for.

Mick:

So it really is the information that you need isn’t it?  That’s what you’re looking for and then you can take your actions.  So far, where have you been getting your information from, John you mentioned about the trade body before.  Do you visit the HSE webpages for example?

John:

Yes, I have done.  I have to say until recently at least, the HSE webpages weren’t terribly helpful, but they’ve now improved that dramatically.  Recently, I was having a look at them and they’ve made a big change in the information which is available especially on REACH.  Biocide, it’s getting there.  We’ve also used a lot of other sources too.  I find that the Government websites are pretty good now, there’s a lot of information coming up on gov.uk/transition, but the main source for our information has been our trade body the CIA, at least in the initial stages.  Latterly, more like HSE and gov.uk.

Mick:

That’s good to know.  What about you James?

James:

Very similar to what John’s just mentioned.  We do use the CRD/HSE website for updates.  We do also use the Government emails and updates which are sent through as John mentioned.  And again we use the Crop Protection Association and they’ve disseminated quite a lot of information basically over the last two or three years with most of the changes as well as being involved in a lot of the work.

Mick:

John, and in fact you too James, where would you go to find more information?

James:

I don’t know about John but I think primarily the internet is the No. 1 source for most of the information we’ve tried to find, but we’ve got contacts in CRD as well and without obviously getting anyone in trouble there’s a lot of information you can actually request, so just by talking to some of the CRD members, you do get a good feel for the way things are going and they can also relate it back to specifics that you’re going though.  So I think direct contact with CRD, the Government and emails.

Mick:

And you, John?

John: 

We’ve got a couple of different sources that we’ve got subscriptions to that we pay for information from.  Organisations like Chemical Watch, Kerona, (European Regulatory Consultants) people like that have provided us with information as well.  James is absolutely right, the best place is go to the internet and search on Google and ask a question and see what it comes up with.  HSE has been good as well though.  If you have a specific question for them, they’ve got a helpdesk and I’ve asked them a few questions over the past couple of years and they’ve been really helpful actually and pretty prompt in replying.

Mick:

And what actions would you recommend John for businesses which don’t feel prepared?

John:

If you don’t feel prepared, I would advise, go to the Government website, like I said before, gov.uk/transition they have a checklist which will provide you with a series of questions.  It will ask you a question and whether you say yes or no, it will give you different answers and take you different places and checklists to make sure you’re covered with everything.  We’ve done this two or three times where every time you do it again, it comes up with something else.  It might not be related to biocides we are talking about just now, it might be if you are employing European nationals.  One thing that we’ve found, we’ve got one or two people from Italy, Spain and France working here and they need to consider the documentation that they need to have in place to continue to work in the UK.  There are grace periods.  I think that the European nationals are allowed up until sometime in June to submit whatever documentation they need, but they still need to do it.

Mick:

James have you got any handy hints for people listening who feel - Oh blimey, I’m not prepared?

James:

I think the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is probably the best advice, but don’t panic!  I think it depends on the size of the company.  I know big companies who’ve been scenario planning for years on the impact of Brexit.  From my side what I would say is, try to find out as much information as you can and I think make contact with trade associations – the CPA has done multiple things for our side of the fence, not only discussing things with Government officials and looking at presentations to the Expert Committee on approval process and things like that.  Most trades associations will be on spot with this so I would contact those but I would also talk to other companies.  You’ll have competitors, you’ll have partners in the industry and try and find out what they’re doing. 

John:

James I really like your reference to the Hitchhikers Guide.  I’ve got written down here in big, friendly letters – don’t panic, the world will not come to an end, the UK will continue to exist, we’ll have new circumstances to adapt to and that we will adapt and we will survive, but it will just look different.  

Mick:

That’s a good point to end this interview on John.  John Mackenzie and James Clovis thanks a lot for joining us today that was really, really useful. 

In a couple of minutes time, I’ll be giving out some really important information not only about the HSE website, but about the HSE’s eBulletin service.  If you have a particular question you need answering, email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. 

 (Music Interlude)

Many, many thanks to John Mackenzie and James Clovis for their time today and for sharing their views on the past few months, their hopes, fears and advice for the future.  I hope you found it useful.

There were quite a few mentions in the interview of the HSE website which is being regularly updated with news and information on PPP and BPR not to mention the other regimes which have been affected by the changes.  We’ve updated our guidance on the chemicals industry – this is available on our website which is linked to the notes on this podcast.  Remember too to subscribe to our e-Bulletin newsletters – you pop your email address into the subscription box which appears on the pages of the website. 

And if you want to contact our helpdesk with a question about the new regulations for the chemicals industry then email them at EU-exitchemicals@hse.gov.uk and we’ll respond as soon as possible.  Again this email is in the notes which accompany the podcast.

We won’t actually be saying goodbye to John Mackenzie as he’ll be joining us in our next podcast where he’ll be discussing – along with another business guest, the changes to CLP, REACH and PiC regulations.

The guest in question is Chris Howick, from Inovyn who, according to their website, manufacture a wide range of chemicals that are used as raw materials in almost every industrial process.  They specialise in Chlorvinyls and have sites in the UK and throughout Europe.

So join me Mick Ord for what will hopefully be an enlightening and useful discussion with our two industry voices….take care and we’ll hopefully catch up with you very soon.

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