Retailers may no longer be considered as distributors but as importers with additional responsibilities.

On 31st January 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) and entered a period of transition ending on 31st December 2020. This has resulted in major adjustments to the requirements for the supply of chemicals between Great Britain (GB), Northern Ireland (NI) and the EU within a relatively short time frame.

With regards to chemical legislation, the UK effectively undertook a “lift and shift” procedure, which resulted in them adopting the various EU chemical legislations that were in force on 31st December 2020, with only minor changes to wording to allow for the regulations to work for a single market rather than 27 different member states.

The major exception is with regards to NI. Due to the need for an unregulated border in Ireland, an additional piece of legislation was introduced called the Northern Ireland Protocol. This protocol states that products placed on the market in NI must comply with EU regulations, while at the same time maintaining a tariff and customs-free access to the GB market. 

The first consideration for any retailer is to work out where in the supply chain you now lie. Whilst previously, any products purchased/supplied in the UK or EU were all covered under the same umbrella regulations that resulted in most retailers having reduced responsibilities for 3rd party products, Brexit may place the retailer in the position of importer to one or both markets. This change of role within the supply chain will bring with it additional responsibilities that will need to be accounted for.

If you remain a distributor within the GB/EU supply chain then you will have negligible changes to your responsibilities.

The first consideration for any retailer is to work out where in the supply chain you now lie.

If you’ve become a GB importer:

If you have become the GB importer, you will now be responsible for making sure that all products you import are compliant with the GB regulations. Due to the “lift and shift” procedure undertaken by UK regulators, the current in-force GB requirements are very similar to those in the EU, but instead of ECHA being the main central governing body the HSE and DEFRA have taken over responsibility for chemical products. Below are the major considerations to take into account in the two main keystones of UK chemical legislation.


It will be the responsibility of the GB importer to classify, label and package their products in line with the GB CLP regulations, which are a copy of the EU regulations that were in force on 31st December 2020. However, the supplier details on the label will need to be those of a GB entity.

When classifying products, the EU Annex VI harmonised classification list has been brought over into UK law and is now called the “Mandatory Classification and Labelling List” (GB MCL List). This will be maintained separately from the EU Annex VI list, although changes brought in from the 14th and 15th ATPs will still be implemented on the same dates as the EU.

The requirement for Classification and Labelling notifications has also been brought into UK law, with any substances notified by UK companies using the EU system by 31st December 2020 automatically being brought across into the UK system. Any new chemicals that require notifying after this time will be required to use the new UK portal.

While encouraged, poison centre notifications in GB are to remain voluntary, unlike products placed on the market in NI/EU which are subject to the new Annex VIII notification requirements.

Any new chemicals that require notifying after this time will be required to use the new UK portal.


If you import a substance, either on its own or in a mixture, above 1 tonne per annum, and place it on the GB market, you must hold a UK REACH registration for that substance.

If you were originally a downstream user of a substance registered under EU REACH, but have become the GB importer, you will be required to take on the role of registration holder in GB, unless your supplier uses a GB-only representative to undertake UK REACH registration requirements on your behalf. To undertake the responsibility yourself you will need to perform a DUIN (Downstream user information notification) within 300 days of 1st January 2021. Once this has been completed you will have 2, 4 or 6 years depending on the substance to complete the registration.

Regarding GB safety data sheets, the format implemented is that outlined in the EU 2015/830 REACH Annex II regulation, and not the recently updated EU 878/2020 regulation. There is a requirement for a GB entity to be listed as the supplier on the document.

Products moving between NI/EU and GB

If you have now become either a NI or EU importer, you will need to abide by all EU requirements from the 1st January 2021 as no transition period has been implemented.

If you are importing into the EU there is a registration exemption if it can be proven that the substances involved are chemically unchanged and part of a registered supply chain. In this case they do not need to be re-registered upon re-importation back into the EU market.

If you export from NI to GB, your products can have unfettered access to the GB market if they meet the definition of Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods (QNIGs). Whilst any product entering the GB market will still have to be labelled, classified and notified in accordance with GB CLP, the supplier details can be those of the NI supplier. QNIGs can also be imported into Great Britain without needing a UK REACH registration, as you can use the more simplified Northern Ireland Notification process which has to have been completed within 300 days from 1st January 2021 for substances already being placed on the UK market via this route, or before importation occurs for new substances.

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This article was also published in The Retailer, our quarterly online magazine providing thought-leading insights from BRC experts and Associate Members.