UK Environment Faces A “Cocktail Of Risks” From Brexit

A new report by Caroline Lucas has highlighted what she calls a “cocktail of risks” to the UK’s environment from Brexit.

The report, which has been released just days after the House of Commons voted to trigger Article 50, says that the EU has been an effective driver of environmental action, and that Britain is now entering a period of “profound uncertainty”, which could lead to the downgrading of many key protections.

As well at detailing the impacts of Brexit on the environment the report calls for a “Green Guarantee” to ensure that current levels of environmental protection and funding are maintained and strengthened.

“Just days after the Brexit vote in the Commons we can clearly see the huge risks of downgrading environmental protections as part of the post-referendum process. Key laws could become unenforceable, spending on crucial schemes could be cut and new trade deals could undermine existing regulations.”

It also echoed calls from the Environment Audit Committee for a new “Environment Act” to be put in place ahead of Britain’s exit from the EU and for Britain to retain membership of key European agencies.

As part of her report, Caroline revealed House of Commons Library research that finds over 1100 EU environmental laws will need to be transposed into UK law and that “the Government has yet to identify all of the EU environment legislation”.

The report claims twelve ways in which Brexit threatens environmental policy in the UK including:

  • A lack of oversight of compliance with environmental rules. At present the European Commission and ECJ monitor and act upon breaches of legislation – there is no similar system in place in the UK and laws could become unenforceable.
  • Britain exiting key agencies like the European Environment Agency and the Chemicals Agency – which support implementation and development of environmental policies.
  • Regulatory equivalencing in new trade deals leading to reduction in environmental protection.
  • Potentially exiting from key schemes such as the Emissions Trading Scheme – where the UK has been a key player.
  • Reduction in funding for the environment as EU spending on the UK stops. Examples include ending CAP Pillar II payments and the LIFE+ fund. Currently the EU is the major funder for agri-environmental schemes.

Caroline, a member of the Environmental Audit Committee and a former member of the International of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee, said: “Though we’ve hardly heard it mentioned by the Government it’s clear that British environmental policy faces a cocktail of threats from Brexit.

“Just days after the Brexit vote in the Commons we can clearly see the huge risks of downgrading environmental protections as part of the post-referendum process. Key laws could become unenforceable, spending on crucial schemes could be cut and new trade deals could undermine existing regulations.

“Outside the EU, there will be much greater probability of legislative change in the UK, more exposure to the political cycle and a danger that investors will be wary of potentially higher risks. The relative attractiveness of the UK as a place for green investment is in danger of being further reduced.

“Theresa May’s courting of the United States in pursuit of a new Free Trade Agreement, poses an even greater risk that Ministers may be tempted to water down regulations – such as those on GMOs, pesticides, and animal hormones. We could see chlorinated chickens and hormone beef on UK markets.

“As well as outlining many of the dangers we currently face, this report seeks to present solutions. We need a Green Guarantee that will deliver on Government’s commitment to ensuring that “we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. We need to immediately begin work on introducing an Environment act to ensure that Britain crucial rules and enforcement don’t drop off as Britain exits the EU.”

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