01 Feb 2017

Brexit and product stewardship briefing series

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Brexit recap

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what is known as "Brexit". On 17 January 2017, the Prime Minister announced plans for a 'hard Brexit', but on 24 January 2017 the Supreme Court decided that legislation was needed to authorise the Government to exercise Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, thereby triggering the UK's exit from the EU within two years. The requirement for an Act of Parliament effectively means that MPs and the Lords will have a vote on whether or not the UK leaves the EU. 

What does this mean for environment law and in particular product stewardship regulation?

Frustratingly for many of our clients, the unknown impact of Brexit on environmental law and regulation is causing uncertainty and concern and may ultimately delay important investment decisions if clarity cannot be found soon.

Despite this ever-changing landscape and resulting uncertainty, from a product stewardship perspective we think it should be business as usual up and down the supply chain – at least in the short-to-medium term. This is because whilst many environmental laws relating to product stewardship are founded in EU Directives, which will no longer apply once the UK leaves the EU, many of those EU Directives have already been fully incorporated into domestic legislation. Therefore, it is unlikely that these instruments will be addressed by the Great Repeal Bill that is set to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Indeed, it could take many years before Parliament finds the time to replace existing laws. 

It's true that some EU environmental law has not been incorporated fully into domestic legislation yet and these laws will cease to apply once the UK has left the EU. A prime example of this is REACH (the rules controlling the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of the supply and use of chemicals). However, Parliament cannot leave vast swathes of activities unregulated until it has replaced the existing rules and it is likely that a legislative 'fudge' will be found so that REACH and other EU Regulations will be adopted under transitional arrangements. 

Even if in the medium-to-long term, the UK does attempt to weaken environmental standards relating to product stewardship, given the global nature of the economy, we expect many manufacturers will continue to apply the higher EU standards for a number of reasons:

  • it is more efficient to make a single product to sell in all markets;
  • customers are increasingly demanding high environmental standards; and
  • we expect there to be a long-term legislative and political trend towards setting stringent environmental standards, notwithstanding the current political climate.

How can we help you?

Against this background, we have prepared a series of refresher articles setting out the ten key things that Stephenson Harwood think you need to know on the following product-related environmental laws that will continue to apply for the foreseeable future, notwithstanding the shadow of Brexit:

  • energy-labelling;
  • regulation regarding batteries and accumulators;
  • restrictions on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (ROHS);
  • controls on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE);
  • regulation on packaging and packaging waste;
  • rules controlling the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of the supply and use of chemicals (REACH); and
  • obligations on companies to report environmental information.

01 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know about product stewardship, packaging and packaging waste

07 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know: product stewardship and energy labelling

09 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know: waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

14 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know about the restrictions on the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (ROHS)

16 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know about the regulation of batteries

21 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know about product stewardship and businesses' obligations to disclose environmental information

23 Feb 2017 - #10ThingsSH you need to know about product stewardship and REACH

To view the full series of articles please click here

Stay in touch

Follow us on twitter @SH_EnviroPlan to keep track of further news and insights into environmental and planning law issues in the EU, and keep watch for our “Top Ten” series #10ThingsSH

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KEY CONTACT

Ben Stansfield

Ben Stansfield
Partner

T:  +44 20 7809 2500 M:  +44 7584 515 251 Email Ben | Vcard Office:  London

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