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September, 25 2017

International Report considered by Parliament

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Posted by Joe Newbigin at 13:17
We are glad to see that the points raised in our report Brexit and Environmental Law: The UK and International Environmental Law after Brexit are being discussed in Parliament.

Parl Qs

Two weeks ago Caroline Lucas MP asked two questions which reflect issues we raise in that report. The first question asks the Secretary of State “which international environmental agreements to which the UK is currently a party as a consequence of ratification by the EU he plans the UK to ratify in order to maintain the current level of environmental protection after the UK leaves the EU”? This reflects the concerns we have raised in relation to EU-only agreements. The second question asks “what the legal position will be of international environmental agreements ratified jointly by the EU and the UK after the UK leaves the EU”

Dr Thérèse Coffey MP responded on behalf of Defra:

“The UK will continue to be bound by international Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to which it is party. We are committed to upholding our international obligations under these agreements and will continue to play an active role internationally following our departure from the EU. We will give due consideration to the ratification of MEAs in the future to which the UK is not currently party in its own right,(recognising that some risks have no relevance to the UK.)”

We welcome Dr Coffey’s acknowledgment of the issue surrounding EU-only international environmental agreement, but trust that in due course the Government will elaborate in more detail which EU-only international environmental agreements it will sign and/or ratify in order to maintain the current level of environmental protection.

However, we remain concerned that the position of mixed agreements is still unclear. Dr Coffey’s response is consistent both with her answer to a previous written question and her evidence to the House of Lords Energy and Environment Sub-Committee last year (see paragraph 48). In summary, she says that because the UK is a party to mixed agreements in its own right it will remain bound by the obligations they contain, and this will not change after Brexit. Our concern is that despite this legal uncertainties and unresolved disagreements remain as to whether the UK will be automatically bound by all the obligations under mixed agreements after Brexit (see paragraphs 38 to 46 of our report).

We reemphasise our call for the UK Government to make a clear statement of its understanding of the legal position of these mixed agreements after Brexit. Ideally this would be a joint understanding with the European Commission. This would go a long way to resolving the uncertainty surrounding the future of mixed environmental agreements.

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