Speaking at the Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) enquiry into: The Future of the Natural Environment after the EU Referendum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at Defra said she doesn’t want anybody to be under any delusions that voting to leave the EU will affect the environmental ambitions for the country.
“The Government is committed to leaving the environment in a better state than we inherited it,” she said. “So from my perspective, being in or out of the EU doesn’t change that ambition.”
She said Defra’s 25 year environment plan hasn’t changed; “it was going to the be the model if we stayed in the EU and is the model now we’re exiting the EU,” she said.
She also revealed that we can expect something from Defra next year, which will have “long legs” for the next 25 years.
Coffey was challenged by recently appointed co-leader for the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, who posed that it would be more difficult to have the ambition of leaving the environment in a better state than it was before if we’re not working with our EU partners.
To this Coffey said she doesn’t see any reason why it has to be more difficult.
“Just because we will no longer be a part of the EU, doesn’t mean that we won’t work with the EU, or indeed other countries,” she said.
Joining Coffey in the enquiry was Robin Walker, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Exiting the European Union.
“Just because we will no longer be a part of the EU, doesn’t mean that we won’t work with the EU, or indeed other countries,”
He added: “I think there’s nothing to stop us continuing to work multi-laterally as a country with all sorts of partnerships through UN – whilst we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe. We will continue to have important relationships with our European neighbours and a relationship between the UK and the EU.”
Lucas revealed, however, that the former Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, said the negotiations for leaving the EU would be “long and torturous”.
With regards to details about what we might expect post-Brexit environmental policy to look like, Coffey said: “We’re still in the process of forming that policy. We’re still working through the 25-year environment plan.”
She conceded to Lucas that this “might be frustrating”, but that’s what they set out to do.