Detergents: Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Protocol
As part of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, the Northern Ireland Protocol ('the Protocol') was designed as a practical solution to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, whilst ensuring that the UK, including Northern Ireland, could leave the EU as a whole. Therefore, it included several special provisions which apply only in Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021. The Protocol is not codified as a permanent solution; it is designed to solve a particular set of problems and it can only do this in practice as long as it has the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, with the first vote taking place in 2024.
The EU Detergents Regulation - (Regulation (EC) No 648/2004)
Under the Protocol, the EU Detergents Regulation will continue to apply in Northern Ireland. This means that:
- detergents placed on the market in Northern Ireland must comply with the EU Detergents Regulation.
- detergents shipped to the EU from Northern Ireland are not imported goods for the purpose of the EU Detergents Regulation
- Northern Ireland-based distributors who are currently supplied by businesses in the EU/EEA will not have duties under the EU Detergents Regulation requirements, if these supply arrangements continue
- detergents shipped from a third country or from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are imported goods for the purposes of the EU Detergents Regulation.
- Northern Ireland- based businesses receiving imported goods will become importers under the EU Detergents Regulation and so will be required to:
- label and package detergents correctly in accordance with the requirements of the EU Detergents Regulation, including the name or trademark of the EU based party responsible for placing the detergent on the market
- prepare ingredient data sheets and make them available on request to medical personnel or appointed bodies (known as poison centres)
- make a list of ingredients available on a website to the general public except for industrial or institutional detergents if equivalent information is provided by means of technical data sheets, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
- ensure that any surfactants used in the detergent are fully biodegradable, using an accredited laboratory approved by an EU Member State
- comply with the ban on inorganic phosphates in consumer laundry and consumer automatic dishwasher detergents as set out in Article 4a and Annex VIA of the EU Detergents Regulation.
- responsibility for meeting the legal requirements for detergents traded from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will rest with the Northern Ireland based businesses that place the detergents on the Northern Ireland/ EU Single Market even if they are currently distributors
- Northern Ireland based businesses that place detergents on the Northern Ireland market may also have to meet legal requirements in other EU chemicals legislation in addition to complying with the EU Detergents Regulation. This includes:
- the EU CLP Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008) with regard to classification, labelling and packaging, notification of hazardous mixtures to an appointed body (poison centre) or to ECHA under Annex VIII of the CLP Regulation, and notification of substances to the ECHA Classification and Labelling Inventory if notification criteria are met
- the Biocidal Products Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 528/2012) in respect of detergents with a biocidal action, e.g. disinfectants, sanitisers, containing biocidal active substances and
- the REACH Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006), for example, in relation to REACH restrictions
- test reports issued by a laboratory approved by an EU Member State are valid in Northern Ireland.
- test reports issued by a laboratory in Great Britain approved by the United Kingdom may be valid in Northern Ireland and in some EU Member States.
- an approved laboratory in Northern Ireland may continue to issue test reports in some circumstances
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is the lead Northern Ireland Department for chemicals policy, with specific regulatory and legislative responsibilities for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH); persistent organic pollutants (POPs); plant protection products, or pesticides; fluorinated greenhouse gases, or F gases; ozone-depleting substances (ODS); detergents; and mercury. DAERA has a new role as the competent authority for the EU Detergents Regulation.
Moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain
Unfettered access and placing qualifying Northern Ireland (NI) goods on the Great Britain market
The UK government is committed to unfettered access for qualifying NI goods moving to the rest of the UK market. Unfettered access means no declarations, tariffs, new regulatory checks or customs checks, or additional approvals for NI businesses to place goods on the Great Britain market.
The United Kingdom Internal Market (UKIM) Bill puts the building blocks in place for this regime for the long term. It enshrines in primary legislation that qualifying NI goods will benefit from mutual recognition - enabling goods to continue to be placed on the whole UK market, even where the Protocol applies different rules in Northern Ireland - and prohibits checks and controls as goods move from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.
The definition of qualifying NI goods is set out in regulations made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act (2018), The Definition of Qualifying Northern Ireland Goods (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which outline that qualifying goods are:
- any goods present in Northern Ireland (and not subject to any customs supervision, restriction or control which does not arise from the goods being taken out of the territory of Northern Ireland or the European Union)
- any goods that have undergone processing operations in Northern Ireland incorporating either domestic goods or goods not under customs supervision, restriction or control at the time of processing
Highly regulated goods
A very small number of goods can pose a particularly high risk to consumers, human and animal health, and the environment, and they are subject to stricter regulation. Consumers in Northern Ireland will be protected against these risks because businesses in Northern Ireland may have to share information with the authorities before they are placed on the market or have information available at the disposal of the competent authority.
To protect consumers across the UK, if you are a Northern Ireland based business placing highly regulated goods on the GB market, you may have to make basic information available to the GB authorities on request. This is to protect consumers across the UK if those goods are sold in the rest of the UK. In line with the commitment to unfettered access, you will not need additional approval to place these goods on the GB market.
Making information available – results of biodegradability tests and technical files
Detergents can pose a risk to workers, consumers, and the environment, so it is necessary that HSE acting as the competent authority for the retained Detergents Regulation has access to information about detergents if they are to be placed on the market in Great Britain.
In the case of the retained Detergents Regulation as it applies in Great Britain, Northern Ireland based businesses can supply detergents directly to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), provided they are supplying qualifying NI goods and they are in conformity with the requirements of the EU Detergents Regulation.
To protect workers, consumers and the environment, Northern Ireland-based businesses should also label detergents according to Great Britain requirements, for example, the GB Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation, when supplying qualifying NI goods into Great Britain. This ensures that information provided to consumers on detergents' labels is the same no matter whether the detergents are supplied from Northern Ireland or Great Britain.
They must also have the results and technical files relating to the biodegradability tests available at the disposal of HSE acting as the competent authority.
Like businesses based in Great Britain, Northern Ireland based businesses may have to make basic information available to the Great Britain authorities on request.
Supply of qualifying NI goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain will not be deemed to be imported goods. This means that Northern Ireland based businesses can supply directly to Great Britain and, unlike a business based anywhere else in the world, does not have to find a business based in Great Britain to take on the duty to meet retained Detergents Regulation requirements.
Northern Ireland based distributors who supply directly to the Great Britain market will not be able to rely on the labelling information provided to them from others in the Northern Ireland supply chain. This is because supply within Northern Ireland will be subject to the EU Detergents Regulation. Northern Ireland based distributors will have to take on the obligations and responsibilities for ensuring labelling and ingredient data sheet requirements for the detergents they supply to Great Britain are correct and in accordance with the retained Detergents Regulation (as amended).
Northern Ireland-based importers must comply with the EU Detergents Regulation first. If they then supply directly to the GB market, they effectively become responsible for meeting the requirements of the retained Detergents Regulation (as amended).
Separation provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement
Article 41(1) of the Withdrawal Agreement provides that an existing and individually identifiable good lawfully placed on the market in the EU or the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period may be further made available on the market of the EU or of the United Kingdom and circulate between these two markets until it reaches its end user.
The economic operator relying on that provision bears the burden of proof of demonstrating on the basis of any relevant document that the good was placed on the market in the EU or the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period.