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EU referendum’s impact on environmental law discussed

EU referendum’s impact on environmental law discussed

March 17, 2016

WEEE_logoA legal firm has outlined the “potential impact” of a UK vote to leave the EU in terms of environmental law.

The Recycler reported earlier this week that it has received questions from UK companies concerning what might happen if it leaves the EU, and Promax Imaging’s Sales and Technical Manager Tim Parsons, also Legal Consultant for UK association UKCRA, shared his perspectives on the implications.

Now, Eversheds LLP’s Elizabeth Shepherd, writing for Lexology, has stated that much of the UK’s environmental law “originates from the EU”, such as WEEE, which has been implemented into national law. In turn, some is derived from “regulations which are directly applicable” without any legislation, like REACH, and Shepherd noted that while “it is likely to be business as usual from an environmental law perspective immediately after a vote”, the question is “when are any changes likely, and what will they entail”.

She believes that it would be “two years” before the UK would “actually leave”, and “complex issues” might suggest “a longer period”, meaning that uncertainty “is likely to prevail for a period of some years”, though the “status quo is broadly expected to continue during that period”. She also mused on the potential post-exit relationship between the UK and EU, including potential Norwegian or Swiss models for interaction.

A Norwegian-style relationship would see the UK “remain bound to implement and apply much of EU law” such as REACH, but lose “its ability to influence it”, while the Swiss model would see the UK not “be bound by EU environmental law unless it agreed otherwise”, and Shepherd acknowledged “there is no easy option or answer. The bottom line is nobody knows”.

A “comprehensive review” of environmental law would need to be undertaken to discover what would need to change, but this would “be a significant task”, and Shepherd added that in the case of WEEE, exiting the EU “would not automatically undo UK laws which have been put in place to implement EU directives”, though it would mean no “opportunity to influence any changes”. A range of areas would be impacted, including WEEE and environmental impact assessments (EIAs).500px-United_Kingdom_EU.svg

Even if “at first sight” flexibility would “seem like an appealing opportunity to be rid of some burdensome regulation[s]”, UK exporters “would still have to ensure that their products comply with existing EU regimes” such as REACH, and different obligations might apply, with any “reduction in standards” might “meet with public opposition”.

The UK would also no “longer be bound” by European Court of Justice rulings, which could cause issues when it comes to substances of very high concern (SHVCs) in REACH in terms of differences between UK and EU laws on the substances. ON standards, the UK might have to “bear the cost of developing its own documents” or “potentially rely on EU policies/documents without having a seat at the table”.

In conclusion, Shepherd pointed out that there is likely to be “significant legal uncertainty” after a vote to leave, and some models might offer the chance to “reduce environmental regulation”, and at the same time force a “higher compliance burden” onto businesses operating in the EU from the UK. The UK “has spent time and money setting up” WEEE and other similar areas, and she believes “it seems unlikely the UK would drop these requirements altogether”, with RoHS another area where “it seems even less likely there would be major change”, as “the whole of the electronics industry has moved on in response”.

As David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, is the local Member of Parliament for Witney, Oxfordshire – where The Recycler is based – The Recycler will be looking to contact him with a number of questions relating to the referendum and remanufacturing, and we will report back on any response we receive.

Categories : World Focus

Tags : Environment Europe UK

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