Brexit in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The UK's relationship with the EU
Between now and the date UK formally withdraws
The UK will remain a full member of the European Union until it completes the process of withdrawal under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (also known as the Lisbon Treaty). The UK Government intends to start the process by the end of March 2017. Once started, it could take up to two years to complete.
Until the Article 50 process is completed, the UK will remain bound by EU law. Governments, regulators and courts across the UK will be required to continue to enforce our domestic laws and measures that implement European environmental law.
The High Court has ruled that the Government cannot start the Article 50 process without the consent of Parliament. A Parliamentary debate could in principle delay the triggering of Article 50, or even block it. The High Court ruling is being appealed to the Supreme Court. The hearing will take place 5-8 December with judgment due in the New Year.
- Read the High Court judgment: R (Miller and Others) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union  EWHC 2768 (Admin)
Relationship after the date of withdrawal from the EU
We do not yet know what kind of relationship the UK will have with the EU after withdrawing. This will be decided in the course of negotiations. It is possible that under the terms of withdrawal most EU environmental laws will continue to apply (a 'soft Brexit' in which the UK remains a part of the European Economic Area), or that none continue to apply (a 'hard Brexit').
Domestic Environmental Law After Brexit
The UK government and devolved administrations will need to decide what to do about our existing domestic environmental legislation that implements EU environmental law. Most of our current domestic environmental laws give effect to EU law; and many of them take the form of regulations made under the powers in section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.
Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis has stated that the UK government will introduce a Great Repeal Bill in the next Parliamentary Session (2017-18), that 'will mean the European Communities Act ceasing to apply on the day we leave the EU' whilst 'convert[ing] existing EU law into domestic law, wherever practical'. His ministerial statement does not explain how this will be achieved. We expect the Great Repeal Bill to contain detailed provisions dealing with this.
After the date of exit, it will be for the government and Parliament to decide how to change things, whilst respecting the terms of the agreement reached with the EU and continuing to implement international obligations.
The Great Repeal Act will convert existing EU law into domestic law, wherever practical...
That will provide for a calm and orderly exit and give as much certainty as possible to employers, investors, consumers and workers...
...There is over 40 years of European Union law in UK law to consider in all, and some of it simply won’t work on exit. We must act to ensure there is no black hole in our statute book.
Then, it will be for [the House of Commons] to consider the changes to our domestic legislation to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit, subject to international treaties and agreements with other countries and the EU on matters such as trade…
And we will, as Britain always should, abide by our treaty obligations - not tearing up EU law unilaterally, as some have suggested, but ensuring stability and certainty as Britain takes control on the day of exit and not before.
The First Minister has made her intention to explore all possible options to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe.
As stated by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, there are no plans to amend or revoke any environmental legislation as a result of the EU referendum. Similarly, the Scottish Government has no plans to alter its domestic policies and priorities on the environment, such as delivery of climate change targets, as a result of the referendum. See the following press release from Scottish Government for further information.
The Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has made clear it is Wales' priority that UK should retain access to the single market (a 'soft Brexit'). The Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths has indicated that the Welsh Government will be looking at how to develop Welsh-specific policies that build upon EU environmental policies and legislation concerning the environment, health, farming and fisheries so as to meet Welsh needs.
The future of farming policy (and its implications for the environment) is a particularly important issue in Wales, which has access to considerable EU funding. UK minister George Eustace has said he cannot guarantee that future agricultural support programmes will be as generous as current EU subsidies. Any future Welsh agriculture policy will have to sit within a UK wide framework.
Press Articles and New Releases
First Minister Arlene Foster has indicated she has "no time for those who want to re-fight the referendum", and that the government should be looking forward to the opportunities Brexit presents. This follows a High Court ruling that rejected a claim that the Good Friday Agreement prevented the government from triggering the Article 50 Brexit process. Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen has stated that Northern Ireland must be closely and directly involved in UK's domestic agricultural, environmental and fisheries policy and trade agendas as they unfold in order to maximise the opportunities that will come with Brexit.
Northern Ireland will need to decide how to regulate on cross-border environmental matters, in the event of a hard Brexit where European laws only continue to apply in the Republic of Ireland. Key issues include transfrontier shipments of waste, pollution of cross-border water bodies, and environmental impact assessment of developments.
Press articles and new releases