Making sure leaving the EU works for our environment.
I worked closely with the Environmentalists for Europe group in the run-up to the EU referendum to highlight the close ties with the continent in terms of the environment, sharing a framework of legislation governing air, water and habitats.
However, I was clear that, should the UK vote to leave, we should grasp the opportunity to shape our environment and farming system to better suit our particular circumstances.
In the new Brexit world this is my priority and I have teamed up with the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) to put the environment on the agenda. I was delighted that 36 parliamentary colleagues supported the CEN letter bringing this to the attention of the prime minister.
I have also made my own representations to her, in particular calling for the reaffirming of the general election manifesto commitment to create a Blue Belt of protected waters around the UK’s overseas territories and uphold existing environmental standards in EU directives.
Although the findings of the recent State of Nature report were shocking in terms of the continued deterioration of our natural environment, I fully support the view of Lord Attenborough that repatriation of the common agricultural and fisheries policies is an opportunity to reform legislation to match our own part of the world. I urge environmentalists to work closely with farmers on this.
I am heartened by new Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom’s response to Attenborough. ‘As environment secretary it is my vision to be the first generation to leave an environment better than we found it,’ she said.
Given the long tradition the Conservatives have for environmental protection I am positive we can work towards this and I shall be doing my bit to bring this about. Success to date includes creating the reforming Department of the Environment in 1970, delivering the landmark Clean Air Act in 1956, the Wildlife and Countryside Act in 1981 and publishing the UK’s first comprehensive environmental strategy, This Common Inheritance, in 1990.
It is essential we have an environment that works for everyone, that delivers public goods whether it be clean air, clean water, flood resilience, recreational areas and, importantly, food, and we must protect our most precious natural world.
30th September 2016