Article 50 deadline looms

9th March 2017

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  • Politics & Economics ,
  • England ,
  • EU ,
  • Northern Ireland ,
  • Scotland



A bonfire of EU regulation must not be allowed.

The question all environmentalists in the UK are continuing to ask is: ‘What will the country’s departure from the EU mean for the environment, climate change and biodiversity loss?’

In my opinion, Brexit is the single biggest threat, not only to the UK but to European environmental protection. The EU has been (and continues to be) the unsung hero of environmental protection across the continent. There are more than 2,000 EU environmental laws protecting everything from the air we breathe, to nesting sites for birds and the cleanliness of beaches and bathing waters. Many of these have been driven by UK experts and elected representatives.

But prime minister Theresa May appears determined to stick to deadlines and, with the triggering of article 50 looming, there is a lot at stake and a lot to lose. Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom has stated already that ‘slashing regulations for farmers’ will be a top priority for the government.

Does she mean weakening of EU emissions ceilings or plant and bird protections we must adhere to? What else is she planning to slash and what key EU environmental standards is she seeking to opt out of? Or will the EU demand that any deal on Brexit protects them?

The European parliament’s environment committee has investigated the impact of Brexit on its work. The committee’s report made it plain that the UK must abide by Europe’s environmental regulations as part of any deal to leave the EU. Environmental challenges are cross-border issues and EU countries will want guarantees that the UK will continue to pull its weight tackling climate change, fighting cross-border air pollution and protecting migratory species.

Environmentalists must make themselves aware of the threats and be prepared to ask awkward questions of the negotiators. Writing to ministers or constituency MPs, local papers and broadcast media, pointing out the EU protection afforded to local Natura 2000 sites or levels of air pollution in cities, is effective and helpful.

The Brexit government must not be allowed to start a bonfire on good EU environmental protection.


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