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UK MPs on Brexit environmental law impacts

July 27, 2016

The Environment Audit Committee (EAC) wrote a letter to the government asking it for “certainty” on “post-Brexit” environmental laws.UK

Business Green reported on the EAC’s letter, which argued that the UK government should “maintain [the] existing level of environmental protection ‘as a minimum’” after the country leaves the European Union. The committee’s chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh, has written to the UK government’s Brexit secretary David Davis “urging him to reassure businesses” that the government will “preserve environmental protections provided by EU law”.

Sent last week, the letter was “published openly”, and “seeks clarification on government plans” for the “large proportion of UK environmental law that originates from the EU”, and it was also sent to Thérèse Coffey, a minister at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra). The EAC letter adds that it “believes the government should, as a minimum, commit to maintaining in law the existing level of environmental protection currently guaranteed by EU law. We would like to know what enforcement mechanisms and changes to regulatory regimes are planned”.

It also cited figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), which found that that the low-carbon and renewable energy economy in the UK was worth £46.2 billion ($60.5 billion/€54.9 billion) in 2014, with businesses and investors “now […] looking for stability”. The EAC believes it is “crucial that the government demonstrates its commitment to environmental protection at an early stage in the exit negotiations”, and is concerned it might “deprioritise air pollution as an issue”.

This relates to a “failure to address it before being forced to by court action based on EU air quality law”, and the committee also asked for “clarification on the government’s approach to ongoing negotiations” on the circular economy, the impact on which was previously reported by The Recycler last week. It also wanted detail on “how transnational cooperation” on climate change and other issues “will be maintained post-Brexit”.

Its belief is that “there are few areas of government policy where the decision to leave the European Union will have a more widespread impact than the environment”, and that “Britain’s membership of the EU has been crucial to the improvement of UK air quality, the cleaning up of water pollution, the management of waste, and the protection of biodiversity. It has given us a platform on which we can show global leadership in tackling climate change”.

The government responded, with a spokesman adding: “The government is committed to protecting our environment so people have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and an energising and beautiful landscape to enjoy. We now have an historic opportunity to consider the long-term vision for the environment outside of the EU.

“As a part of this, we will be developing our 25-year plan for the environment, a manifesto commitment which we will work with a range of partners to determine and deliver.”

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