UK government unlikely to deliver 'green Brexit', report finds

1st May 2018

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Adam Glenister

Regulatory gaps post-Brexit could lead to ‘zombification’ of environmental policy in the UK, with no system of governance in place to enforce EU laws that are retained from the bloc.

That is the warning from an independent academic report, which finds that standards for environmental policy are likely to be weaker under every possible scenario.

The Habitats and Birds Directives are most at risk, while water quality is another major area of concern, potentially reversing progress that has seen England enjoy the cleanest bathing waters since records began.

This is despite environment secretary Michael Gove insisting that Brexit presents an opportunity to improve environmental protections, and that the UK will be a global “champion” of green policies after leaving the EU.

“The government committed to a green Brexit, but our analysis demonstrates that its delivery will be challenging,” said report author, professor Charlotte Burns of the University of Sheffield.

“Every Brexit scenario carries risks for our environment, with nature protection being particularly at risk, even under the soft Norwegian option.”

The report highlights how environmental protections would be better protected if the UK adopts a similar relationship with the EU to the one Norway has, as most of the bloc’s laws would still apply.

However, the Habitats and Birds Directives would still be lost under this scenario, while a chaotic ‘no deal’ outcome from Brexit negotiations poses very high risks to environmental policies right across the board.

The government’s 25-year plan for the environment also comes in for much criticism, with the report highlighting that any concrete commitments made still offer weaker protections than EU law.

Friends of the Earth, which commissioned the report, is now calling for the UK to introduce a “muscular environmental watchdog”, and not fall back on its international commitments.

The organisation’s Brexit campaign lead, Kierra Box, said: “We hope this report will spur parliament to make much needed changes to the Withdrawal Bill, currently in the process of going through parliament.

“Both the UK and the EU need to put their ‘red lines’ to one side and put our environment, health and the future of our planet first.”

Download the full report here

Image credit: iStock

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