The white paper, “Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union”, published by the Department for Exiting the European Union yesterday (30 March), set out proposals to ensure a legal framework is still in place following Brexit.
The paper states the Great Repeal Bill will ensure the “whole body” of environment law is safeguarded prior to Brexit, “providing businesses and stakeholders with maximum certainty as we leave the EU”.
This means that existing EU recycling targets will continue to apply once the UK has left the EU – to begin with, at least. The government said it could consult on changes to regulatory frameworks in the future.
“The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law…”
It also means EU legislation, such as the Waste Framework Directive, will also continue to apply.
The white paper stated the government is “committed to ensuring that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it”.
It said: “The UK’s current legislative framework at national, EU and international level has delivered tangible environmental benefits, such as cleaner rivers and reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide and ozone depleting substances emissions.
“Many existing environmental laws also enshrine standards that affect the trade in products and substances across different markets, within the EU as well as internationally.
“The Great Repeal Bill will ensure that the whole body of existing EU environmental law continues to have effect in UK law. This will provide businesses and stakeholders with maximum certainty as we leave the EU. We will then have the opportunity, over time, to ensure our legislative framework is outcome driven and delivers on our overall commitment to improve the environment within a generation. The Government recognises the need to consult on future changes to the regulatory frameworks, including through parliamentary scrutiny.”
The publication comes after a leaked EU paper revealed by the Guardian stated that any trading deals following Brexit would be contingent on the UK meeting the EU’s environmental standards.
“Policy Must Not Be Eroded”
Following the triggering of Article 50 and the publication of the Great Repeal Bill white paper, CIWM has reiterated its view that “UK environmental policy must not be eroded” post-Brexit or sacrificed in trade deal negotiations.
CIWM chief executive, Dr Colin Church, said: “The Government has repeatedly committed itself to ‘leaving the environment in a better state than we found it’. This will require ambition, a robust policy framework, and an understanding of the key role that regulation plays both in safeguarding environmental protection standards and promoting and supporting innovation and resource efficiency in all its forms.”
“It is a commitment that must be observed both in the Brexit negotiations and as we convert EU law into UK law through the Great Repeal Bill. It does not mean a ‘bonfire’ of the essential protections that the UK has helped to develop and put in place as an EU Member; instead, it means Government working closely with the relevant sectors and organisations to ensure that UK environmental policy evolves into an even better and more effective framework.
“As the Great Repeal Bill White Paper notes, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure the transition is smooth. There is a degree of reassurance to be had from the White Paper that the Government recognises the need to maintain a balance between scrutiny and speed. It also provides clarity that the scope of the powers being conferred through the Bill are limited to the task of conversion, not substantive amendment to the legislation.
CIWM CEO, Dr Colin Church – “The commitment to delivering an approach that works across UK is also welcome and, given that environment policy is a devolved responsibility, we look forward to further clarity on how this might be achieved.”
“Elements that are particularly welcome include the provisions on the continuity of CJEU Case Law, which is so important to the interpretation of UK waste law, and the acknowledgement of the need to observe the intent behind the legislation as set out in the relevant treaties, which for our sector includes the ‘precautionary principle’ and the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
The commitment to delivering an approach that works across UK is also welcome and, given that environment policy is a devolved responsibility, we look forward to further clarity on how this might be achieved.
“A number of significant questions remain unanswered, however, including the status of European Commission guidance designed to assist in the interpretation of legislation and the question of enforcement and especially what mechanism will replace the role of the CJEU and the Commission in this respect. Just last month, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee warned of an impending ‘vacuum’ in the enforcement of environmental law as the UK leaves the EU and the Government must not duck this issue.”