Parliament to scrutinise changes to transferred EU laws after Brexit

18th January 2017


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Campaigners expressed relief that MPs and members of the House of Lords will be given a say in any changes to environmental laws transferred into UK law through the Great Repeal Bill.

The pledge was revealed in a speech by Theresa May outlining the UK’s plans to leave the EU. The prime minister repeated her commitment to convert the body of existing EU law into British law, and added: ‘It will be for the British parliament to decide on any changes to that law after full scrutiny and proper parliamentary debate.’

Parliament will also be given a vote on the final deal agreed between the UK and EU, she said.

Greener UK, a coalition of 13 environmental campaign groups including the Green Alliance, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, E3G and ClientEarth, welcomed the clarity given in the speech.

The coalition’s head, Amy Mount, said: ‘With a significant proportion of the UK’s environmental protections having been developed with the EU, the future of our relationship and co-operation with the EU is critical to the continued health of the UK’s environment and people.’

However, May confirmed that the UK will leave the single market and seek a free trade deal with the EU, as well as trading agreements with other countries. May said her objective was to ‘remove as many barriers to trade as possible’.

May made no reference to environmental protections in the speech and Greener UK is worried that existing safeguards will be at risk during the deal-making process.

Mount said: ‘It is deeply disappointing that the prime minister did not provide certainty on the future of our environmental standards and protections.’

It is critical that this certainty is provided swiftly to UK business, she added.

Greenpeace UK's head of public affairs Rosie Rogers said that without EU laws and courts to underpin and enforce environmental laws that had originated in Brussels, ministers could ignore them or scrap them with a stroke of the pen.

‘At a time of such uncertainty, Theresa May should give a firm guarantee that the world-class environmental laws built up over decades will not be swept away by a hard Brexit,’ she said.

Greener UK is asking MPs to sign a pledge to ensure that the UK’s environmental protections are maintained or enhanced once the UK leaves the EU. So far, 179 MPs from across the political spectrum have signed.

Trade body Renewable UK said it was pleased that the prime minister had referred to the UK’s expertise in clean energy. In her speech, May said one of the UK’s strengths was the breadth and depth of its academic and scientific communities, and its leading research and innovation. The UK would like to continue collaborating with European countries on major science, research and technology initiatives, she said.

‘From space exploration to clean energy to medical technologies, Britain will remain at the forefront of collective endeavours to better understand, and make better, the world in which we live,’ the prime minister said.

RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: ‘The renewable energy market is an international one worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the UK is the global leader in offshore wind as well as wave and tidal energy, we’re well placed to attract investment and to export renewable energy kit to every corner of the world.’

There were huge opportunities to grow British jobs in the renewables sector, she added.

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