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July, 26 2017

UK a setter of Gold Standards after Brexit?

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Posted by Rosie Oliver at 18:18

Given concerns in some quarters that Brexit may prove the route to environmental deregulation and downgrading of standards, we were heartened by the Environment Secretary’s speech at WWF’s Living Planet Centre last week. UKELA welcomes the Secretary of State’s recognition that while Brexit is “an historic opportunity to review our policies” he has “no intention of weakening the environmental protections we have put in place while in the EU”. This is reassuring, given our position that the level of environmental protection must not be diminished.

We also welcome his ambition for the UK to become “a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing our natural capital”. UKELA considers it crucially important that the UK Government and devolved administrations should explore ways of improving and strengthening environmental regulation after Brexit. Of course, the extent to which this will be legally possible will be constrained by, amongst other things, the terms of future trade agreements. It is quite possible that a trade deal with the EU will require UK’s laws in many areas of environmental regulation to continue to converge with those of its EU trading partners.

We also warmly receive Mr Gove’s recognition of the importance of the UK’s leading role in establishing international environmental standards and maintaining international environmental co-operation in areas ranging from climate change and protection of the ozone layer, to promoting biodiversity and tacking trade in illegal wildlife. As we highlighted in a previous post, there are a number of international environmental agreements which will ‘fall away’ after Brexit and we look forward to hearing from the Government about which of these the UK will ratify and incorporate into domestic law.

We are encouraged to see a recognition of the need to replace the enforcement functions currently undertaken by European institutions. In our recent report ‘Brexit and Environmental Law: Enforcement and Political Accountability Issues’ we said that Brexit “presents an opportunity to innovate and improve on our domestic mechanisms for ensuring that duties on government and other public bodies are properly implemented”. We therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s ambition of creating “more effective, more rigorous and more responsive institutions” to enforce the “highest environmental standards”. We said that “the United Kingdom should aspire to be a leader in the design and implementation of effective environmental law” and we therefore similarly welcome the Secretary of State’s view that “if we establish ourselves as the home of the highest environmental standards, the most rigorous science and the most ambitious institutions then the world will look to us for environmental innovation and leadership”.

We look forward to the UK Government’s 25 year plan - now expected later this year - for more detail of the Government’s vision for the environment after Brexit.

UKELA’s position on Brexit can be found here.

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Welcome to the UKELA Brexit Task Force blog where we consider the impact of Brexit on environmental law, practice and enforcement in the UK
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