Northern Ireland asks for inclusion in new Environment Bill

27th March 2019

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William Richardson

Northern Ireland has warned that it will not be able to fill gaps in environmental governance post-Brexit because it has no government, and has asked to be covered by England's new regulations.

However, this may lead to complications around regulating air and water quality across Britain's only land border with the EU, and could require a soft Brexit, according to the Environmental Audit Committee.

The cross-party group of MPs said including Northern Ireland in the Environment Bill might require the whole of the UK to align with the EU in order to regulate border-defying pollutants.

Chair Mary Creagh said: “It raises questions about whether the application of Northern Ireland will necessitate the rest of the UK maintaining regulatory alignment with the EU under the Irish backstop, effectively requiring the whole of the UK to stay within a customs union and single market.“

Environmental law is currently devolved to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Regardless of what happens on the Irish border, there are concerns that protections in Scotland and Wales will diverge if England presses ahead with the Environment Bill.

Michael Gove has signalled his agreement to Northern Ireland being included in the draft Environment Bill, while Scotland and Wales are consulting on how to protect environmental governance after Brexit.

“It highlights the importance of our recommendations that the Office for Environmental Protection be co-designed and co-owned by all of the UK in order to be more resilient, independent and effective,“ Creagh added.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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