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Report: Government urged to introduce environmental act to limit Brexit impact

Words: Laura Edgar

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called on the government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act as part of its EU Article 50 negotiations to maintain the UK’s environmental standards.

A report by the committee suggests that wildlife and habitat protections could be weaker after the UK has left the European Union (EU) if the government doesn’t take action before or during the early stages of the Article 50 process.

The government has vowed to introduce a Great Repeal Bill to transpose and retain European legislation into UK law following Brexit.

The EU provides a number of environmental protections and, according to the report, copying this legislation into UK law will be not be enough for up to a third of the EU’s environmental protections.

Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said changes because of Brexit could put the UK’s countryside, farming and wildlife at risk.

“Protections for Britain’s wildlife and special places currently guaranteed under European law could end up as ‘zombie legislation’ even with the Great Repeal Bill.”

Zombie legislation, the report states, describes “EU legislation transposed into UK law which is no longer updated and which can be eroded through statutory instruments with minimal parliamentary scrutiny”.

For the MPs, UK farming faces “significant risks”, including from a loss of subsidies and increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards.

“The government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU,” said Creagh.

The report makes a number of recommendations for the government to address during negotiations to leave the EU, including:

  • Before triggering Article 50, the government must commit to legislating for a new Environmental Protection Act, ensuring that the UK has an equivalent or better level of environmental protection as in the EU, in order to meet its manifesto commitment to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”.

  • The government must assess the resources necessary to replace existing EU environmental funding to ensure that farm businesses remain viable, and that animal welfare, food security and food safety are protected, both in the UK and the Overseas Territories.

  • Before Article 50 is triggered the government must identify legislation that may be difficult to transpose to ensure full public and parliamentary debate and scrutiny. The government should introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to maintain and enforce environmental standards after we leave.

  • Before Britain leaves the EU the government must have clearly established the environmental objectives and governance model to be used for any future land management payments.

The report and recommendations in full can be found here.

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