Paterson attacks EU environment policies

9th June 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Agriculture ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Construction ,
  • Planning



European green policies are inflexible and lead to environmental damage, former environment secretary Owen Paterson claimed in a speech attacking nature directives, the precautionary principle and campaign groups.

Speaking to UK2020, a think-tank established by Paterson, the Conservative MP for North Shropshire made a case for leaving the EU to regain control of environment policy from what he called ‘an inefficient and cumbersome supranational system of government’.

If the UK re-establishes control of its borders, it would be free to target policy specifically to the country’s environmental needs, Paterson said. Attempts to create a level-playing field across member states have resulted in damage to the environment, he claimed.

He gave the example of great crested newts, which he noted are protected by European law, despite the fact that they are ‘doing fine’ in the UK, and can be found ‘everywhere in England, as well as much of Wales and Scotland’.

Protection of great crested newts is not only preventing homes from being built, he alleged, but fences put in place to prevent their movement disturbs ground-nesting birds at nesting times. ‘We need a more flexible policy, and not one focused on targets set hundreds of miles away,’ he argued.

Paterson revealed that, during his time as environment secretary, he was ‘criticised at the very highest level of HM government for adhering to the habitats directive.’ When he suggested amendments to the habitats directive, the then environment commissioner Janez Potočnik refused to discuss them, saying that doing so would open a ‘Pandora’s box’, he said.

‘A huge advantage of leaving the EU is that, should we find that our legislation interpreting international conventions did not work well in practice, we could amend or repeal – or if necessary strengthen it – in response to changes in our own species and habitats,’ he said.

Paterson also criticised the ‘precautionary principle’, which is enshrined in EU law and states that a policy or action should not be pursued if it could cause harm to the public or environment and where no scientific consensus exists.

Paterson said the principle had led to the European Commission banning neonicotinoids at the end of 2013, which he claimed had forced farmers to rely on less effective pesticides. These include pyrethroids, which Paterson alleged damage the aquatic environment and are worse for bees than neonicotinoids.

He advocated replacing the precautionary principle with the ‘innovation principle’ if the UK votes to leave the EU. This would encourage use of latest innovations, which are currently not pursued by companies because they do not want to risk spending money developing a product only for it to be banned without scientific reason, he said.

Paterson also accused the EU of making ‘a power grab’ of international treaties and trying to fit them into a one-size fits all system across the continent.

‘A vote for the EU is a vote for the continuation of the remote, insensitive bureaucracy that insists on deciding matters at continental level, ignoring local environmental conditions and imposing clumsy regulation on matters that should be decided at the level of the nation state or below,’ he said.

Sam Lowe, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said that working with European neighbours on issues such as air pollution, climate change and nature conservation was far more effective than working alone, and that to suggest otherwise is ‘pure fantasy’.

He also responded to Paterson’s claim that campaign groups, including Friends of the Earth, WWF and the RSPB, favour continued UK membership of the EU because they receive large amounts of funding from the bloc.

‘Owen Paterson seems to live in a world where facts play second fiddle to his peculiar disgust at those of us working to protect our shared environment,’ Lowe said. ‘While Patterson is busy peddling conspiracy theories about EU funding, the simple reason so many green groups are supporting remain is because all the evidence and research suggests we are stronger, better, cleaner and greener in.’

Stanley Johnson, former Conservative MEP, co-chair of Environmentalist for Europe and father of Boris: ‘Owen Paterson is wrong about the environment and the EU. The protections he attacks are ones I helped to put in place as an MEP and mean our birds and wildlife are much better protected than they were before.’


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

Transform articles

Interview: Andrew Winston on the many reasons for hope

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Around 20% of the plastic recycled is polypropylene, but the diversity of products it protects has prevented safe reprocessing back into food packaging. Until now. David Burrows reports

3rd April 2024

Read more

IEMA presents a digital campaign to share knowledge and inspire action in sustainability

2nd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 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