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July, 18 2017

Enforcement of Environmental Law after Brexit

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Posted by Rosie Oliver at 12:00
We have today published our report Brexit and Environmental Law: Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues. The report highlights the need for effective mechanisms to hold government and public authorities to account for their environmental law responsibilities after Brexit. It calls for a review of possible options for a specialist environmental Commissioner or equivalent, and for strengthening the role of courts or tribunals in the environmental field.

Brexit and Environmental Law - Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues

Professor Richard Macrory QC CBE, Co-Chair of UKELA's Brexit Task Force, said:

“Brexit offers an opportunity to rethink imaginatively how we can hold government and public bodies to account for their environmental duties and responsibilities. Simply relying upon existing national mechanisms will not be sufficient.”

The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will be concerned with ensuring that the body of EU environmental law is rolled over on Brexit. This is important for regulatory stability and environmental protection. But the focus on 'black letter' law means that broader issues of the accountability of government and other public bodies for their legal responsibilities under environmental law, which have been an important feature of the EU system to date, may disappear. If these institutional gaps are not properly addressed there is a danger of undermining the effectiveness of environmental law.

Current EU environmental laws require governments to provide regular reports to the European Commission on the actual implementation of the legislation. This is a valuable discipline. We need to retain such reporting requirements in our domestic environmental law post Brexit, but with governments reporting to Parliament and the devolved assemblies.

The Commission's role in supervising how Member States carry out their obligations under EU law will, together with its citizen's complaint procedure, disappear after Brexit. The procedures have been used most commonly in the environmental field because the environment has no legal interest and can all too easily die in silence.

Judicial review brought by environmental NGOs before the courts may be a valuable long-stop for ensuring that government and other public bodies carry out their duties under environmental law. But it cannot replicate the more systematic supervisory function hitherto carried out by the Commission. Other jurisdictions have recognised the particular vulnerability of the environment with the creation of bodies such as an independent Parliamentary Commissioner, environmental ombudsman, and more specialised environmental courts or tribunals.

A review should be initiated on possible options for a specialist environmental Commissioner or equivalent, and on strengthening the role of courts or tribunals in the environmental field.

The report is available to download here.

The press release we sent out earlier today can be found here.

More information on UKELA’s work on Brexit can be found here
This page was printed from the website of the UK Environmental Law Association at www.ukela.org.
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