Brexit poll badly timed for circular economy

9th March 2016

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Jake Mason

The UK could miss out in key negotiations on the circular economy package because of uncertainty caused by the EU referendum, industry experts have warned.

The package was published by the European commission in December. It aims to make the economy more resource-efficient by promoting the repairability, durability and recyclability of products, and introducing common EU targets for recycling.

Full details of the package will be fleshed out over the next two years. However, the coming months are crucial because the European parliament is due to finalise its position on the legislative elements of the package by the end of June, according to Nick Molho, executive director at the Aldersgate Group.

The commission will also be setting up working plans on the development of the detail of the package over the next couple of months, Molho said. ‘There is a danger that the UK government decides not to get too involved in the development of EU legislation pending the referendum and end up in a situation in four months’ time that we’re still in Europe but we’ve missed out on the opportunity to input into the package.’

According to Molho, the commission is aware that British businesses have been leading the way on circular economy business models and is keen to involve them, but so far the UK government has engaged little.

‘Despite the referendum, the UK government should really get involved and constructively support this package,’ he said.

Roy Hathaway, European policy adviser at the Environmental Services Association, said the referendum could weaken the UK’s position in the circular economy negotiations: ‘If I put myself in the shoes of the commission’s environment department, I don’t know whether I should take seriously any points made by UK officials and ministers.’

Pieter de Pous, EU policy director at the European Environment Bureau, said the UK referendum would be blamed for delays in passing European legislation even if responsibility lay elsewhere. The commission had planned to publish details of the products to be covered by new rules on ecodesign by the end of last year but had yet to do so, he said.

‘Some people are saying this is because of the UK referendum but it could be that there are pressures from other sides to not do it. The referendum is not helpful, but that’s not the only reason things are being delayed. It’s being used as an excuse.’

The referendum could also hold up the transposition of the new environmental impact assessment directive. A consultation had been due in June or July in order to complete transposition by the May 2017 deadline, but ‘purdah rules’ prevent publication until the referendum is over.


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