Defra grapples with Brexit complexities

28th November 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Chemicals


Paul Simpson

Chemicals, greenhouse gases (GHGs) and pesticides are the most complex areas of legislation for the environment department to prepare for the process of leaving the EU, Defra minister Thérèse Coffey has told peers.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment Sub-committee on the impacts of Brexit on environment and climate policy, Coffey said Defra had yet to finish mapping all legislation that would be affected because the task was so big. Chemicals, GHGs and pesticides were ‘consuming a lot of grey matter’, she reported.

‘Very detailed work is being done to make sure that nothing falls between the gaps in preparation for the Great Repeal Bill. It wouldn’t be good for our legal system to suddenly develop a hole. That’s not our intention,’ she said.

There is a particular focus on developing policy for how Defra will deal with issues that are governed centrally by an EU institution, such as chemicals, the environment minister added.

In earlier evidence to the inquiry, Steve Elliott, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Association, had pointed out it was likely that the UK would need its own agency to govern the regulations. The trade body had also warned that the UK would lose influence in EU negotiations on regulations such as REACH, the EU regulation on chemicals. The third registration phase for REACH, will be in 2018, before the UK leaves the EU.

Defra continues to fully resource its engagement with the EU on the environment and climate, Coffey confirmed, adding that officials were still able to attend relevant discussions. ‘We’re hoping to negotiate a good trade deal and quite a lot of regulatory equivalence will almost certainly be required. It’s in the interest of the UK industries that we’re very active in negotiations,’ she said.

Coffey also told the peers that the UK could have multiple environment plans for different regions under the umbrella of the government’s 25-year plan. She said the plan would recognise that different parts of the country had different environmental challenges.

The committee also took evidence on the impacts of Brexit on waste, water and air quality. Alan Andrews, clean air project manager at ClientEarth, said he was pessimistic about the future of EU air quality laws once the UK leaves the bloc. The government has been trying to weaken the ambient air quality directive for years, he said.

Although politically it would be difficult to repeal it, subtle amendments could have the same impact by removing its legal effect. When questioned on the issue, Coffey insisted that the UK would honour its air quality commitments. However, she added that the government could achieve much on its own and local authorities would have to play their part in improving air quality: ‘It’s a shared challenge going forward.’


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

A social conscience

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Although many organisations focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, it is vital to factor in scope 3 emissions and use their footprint to drive business change

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

What is the role for nature in the Climate Change Act? Sophie Mairesse reports

20th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close